The U.N. human rights office is lauding efforts by the U.S.-led coalition in the battle against the Islamic State group in Mosul. The office in Geneva says coalition flights over Iraq have largely succeeded in preventing IS from bringing in 25,000 more civilians to the city center, where the militant group has been using people as human shields as Iraqi forces advance on Mosul.
The Pentagon has implemented a civilian hiring freeze impacting defense agencies, Defense News reported late Thursday. The move comes following a congressional order after years of debate and lobbying to reduce the number of staff positions at the Pentagon. "We have instructions, both internal and from the Congress to hold down civilian [jobs] commensurate with draw down in the military, and we recognize that mandate," Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord said Tuesday. Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel issued a memorandum in 2013 calling for a 20 percent staff reduction, a move that is now being overseen by current Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. "In this period of additional downward pressure on defense spending, we must continue to reduce our headquarters' budgets and staffing," Hagel said in the 2013 memorandum.
In the first half of 2017, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured in Afghanistan. The number of civilian casualties as a result of the conflict in the country reached its highest point in 2016, when more than 11,500 people were killed or wounded by the fighting between the Afghan government and anti-government groups. Deaths and injuries from suicide bombings and other "complex attacks" rose 15 percent in 2017, according to a new report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). At least 40 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by anti-government forces, including the Taliban, and in attacks claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group, the report said. Fighting in several areas of Afghanistan continues, as this chart shows.