The U.S.-led coalition is failing to clear unexploded munitions from the Afghan bases it’s demolishing as it withdraws its combat forces, leaving a deadly legacy that has killed and maimed a growing number of civilians, United Nations demining officials charge.
Grenades and shells left on the firing ranges where troops practiced with their weapons, and munitions fired at or from the bases that didn’t initially explode, have killed more than 50 civilians in nine provinces since 2008, nearly all of them in 2012 and this year, after the base closings began in earnest, said Mohammad Sediq Rashid, director of the Mine Action Coordination Centre of Afghanistan.
His organization coordinates demining across Afghanistan and falls under the U.N.’s Mine Action Service Office.
And those are just the cases in which the U.N. has specific details about the location of the ordnance. Broadly, in 2012 there were 363 civilian casualties in Afghanistan – or about 30 per month – that were attributed primarily to unexploded ordnance, though in some cases also to mines, Rashid said. For the first half of this year, there have been 241 such casualties, an increase of about 10 per month, he said.