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Iraqi civilian deaths down in 2010, but in Afghanistan they're on the rise

The civilian death toll in Iraq this year stands at 3,976, its lowest since 2003. But almost as many Afghan civilians died in the first half of 2010 alone.

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Afghan soldiers stand near a damaged military check post after a suicide attack in Kunduz, north of Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 11. Civilian deaths have declined in Iraq, but in Afghanistan, they are on the rise.

Fulad Hamdard/AP/File

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An organization that tracks violent deaths in Iraq says that roughly 4,000 civilians were killed in war-related violence this year, the lowest total since the US invasion in 2003. The improvement came even as the US withdrew tens of thousands of troops and abandoned most of its involvement in combat operations.

The numbers contrast with casualty figures in Afghanistan, where a war is raging at its hottest level since it began in 2001 and has seen growing numbers of civilians killed. The Associated Press reports that at least 10 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in Helmand this morning, a province where both Taliban commanders and drug lords are particularly active.

In the first half of 2010, the United Nations (UN) estimated that 3,268 Afghan civilians died in war related violence, a 31 percent increase from the same period a year earlier. The first half of next year, at least, is also likely to be a violent one in Afghanistan, particularly the south, as the spring thaw brings the return of the fighting season and US forces push to consolidate recent gains in Helmand and the neighboring province of Kandahar.

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