A UN report on Afghanistan released on Monday showed a 13% drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded in violence across the country in the first six months of this year, compared to the same period last year.
The report noted that there has been no reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and Afghan national security forces. The main reason for the lower number of civilian casualties is due to a reduction in operations by international military forces and the Islamic State.
The report underscores the still heavy toll the conflict continues to inflict on the civilian population — and sends a harsh message to both the Taliban and the Afghan government forces, saying civilian casualties caused by the warring sides in the conflict continue to be high.
The UN report said 1,282 people were killed in violence in the first six months of 2020 and 2,176 were wounded.That represents an overall 13% decrease from the same period in 2019.
The report said the UN had recorded 17 attacks by IS causing civilians casualties during the first six months of 2020, down from 97 attacks in the same period last year.
“At a time when the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“I urge the parties to pause, to reflect on the chilling incidents and the harm that they are causing to the Afghan people as documented in this report, and to take decisive action to stop the carnage and get to the negotiating table,” said Lyons.
The report comes against the backdrop of a US-Taliban peace deal signed at the end of February and touted as the best hope for peace in Afghanistan after decades of war.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the report, describing it as propaganda aimed at defaming the Taliban. He blamed airstrikes and heavy artillery by government forces and their allies, saying they are “responsible for the majority of civilian casualties.”
The Afghan government, meanwhile, said the UN report underscores the government’s own findings that the Taliban are responsible for the vast majority of the civilian casualties.
Women and children continue to be disproportionately affected by the direct and indirect impacts of the armed conflict, comprising more than 40% of the total civilian casualties, meaning both the killed and the wounded, the report said.
The report noted that children in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable to abuse by both sides, including being recruited for combat.
Last week, a government airstrike killed at least 14 people in western Herat province, many of them women and children. Hundreds of people had gathered in the province’s Adraskan district to welcome home a former Taliban fighter freed from jail, when aircraft reportedly pounded the gathering.
The government said the strike was being investigated. (Source: Mainichi Japan)