Afghan civilian casualties fall 15% in first half of year

KABUL - Civilian casualties in Afghanistan dropped 15 percent in the first six months of the year, despite a recent surge in militant attacks, with deaths blamed on NATO-led troops and Afghan forces declining sharply, the United Nations said on Wednesday.
Afghan civilian deaths have been one of the biggest irritants in relations between President Hamid Karzai's government and its Western backers.
The latest readout also marked the first time in five years civilian casualties have declined.
The figures showed 1,145 civilian deaths between Jan. 1 and June 30, as well as 1,954 civilians wounded, representing a 15 percent decrease over the same period last year. About a third of those killed or wounded were women or children.
"We must remember that Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed and injured at alarmingly high levels," said Nicholas Haysom, the UN's deputy director in the country.