A key element of the new counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan is a redoubled effort to reduce civilian casualties. U.S.-led coalition soldiers abide by some of the strictest rules of engagement in history and increasingly rely on automated technology to reduce civilian deaths.

But a new UN report says civilian casualties are, in fact, increasing. The report, released today, said civilian casualties had risen by 31 percent in Afghanistan over the last six months — even before an expected major offensive in the southern province of Kandahar gets underway.

The exact number of civilian casualties has never been clear. Nongovernment organizations, mutilaterals, the U.S. military and the Afghan government have all given different estimates. The classified military documents released last month by WikiLeaks indicated the toll might be higher than the U.S. military has reported. And GlobalPost’s own investigations on the front lines in Afghanistan, including in Taliban-controlled territory, revealed that some civilian casualties, sometimes numbering in the dozens, often go totally unreported.

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