The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a report has said that there is an acute rise in the number of civilian casualties following the withdrawal of US forces which began in May. The report estimates that at least 5,183 civilian casualties were documented in the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update 2021.
The report also compared these figures with last year’s and noted there has been a 47% increase in the number of casualties.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians. The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
The UN has said that a significant de-escalation process is the only-way-forward. According to the report, Afghanistan is heading towards another brutal cycle of violence. The hasty withdrawal of foreign troops has escalated the tensions in the country. In July, President Joe Biden announced that the US military will withdraw completely from Afghanistan by the end of August.
The violent clashes between the Afghan troops and Taliban insurgents intensified outside cities in areas with comparatively low population levels in May and June, the report added. “We are gravely concerned that if intensive military action is undertaken in urban areas with high population densities, the consequences for Afghan civilians could be catastrophic.”
UNAMA held anti-government elements, Taliban, ISIL extremists, and pro-government forces responsible for the killing. “Anti-government forces were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties. Pro-government forces accounted for 25%, and 11% are blamed on crossfire. Of all casualties, 32% were children,” the report said.
“The pursuit of a military solution will only increase the suffering of the Afghan people,” the report said, adding that the main causes of civilian casualties in the first half of 2021 were the extensive use of “improvised explosive devices, targeted killings and air strikes by the Afghan Air Force.”
“We remain deeply concerned about the continuation of anti-government elements attacks deliberately targeting civilians, particularly through the use of IEDs and shootings, including targeting of civilian government workers, human rights defenders, media workers, religious elders, and humanitarian workers, and sectarian-motivated attacks.”
The report also recorded a “resurgence of deliberate sectarian-motivated attacks” against the Hazara ethnic minority carried out mostly by ISIL extremists. Between May-June, at least eight IED attacks took place. The UNAMA documented “20 incidents in between January to June that targeted Hazaras, resulting in 500 civilian casualties”.
Intra Afghan talks
Several representatives of the Ashraf Ghani-led government in Kabul began direct negotiations with the Taliban’s high level delegation, led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Qatar on Saturday, July 17.
The head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, along with senior representatives of the government, were also part of the direct negotiations.
Soon after the initial rounds of talks concluded without significant progress, on July 19, the Taliban leadership released a statement in which the insurgent group hinted at willingness towards the political settlement to the conflict.
Qatar’s envoy Mutlaq al-Qahtani confirmed that the two sides have agreed to continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached.
#Afghanistan conflict claimed more than 5,000 civilian casualties in first half of 2021, with increase in killed & injured during May-June as int’l troops began departure & Taliban launched offensive, finds UN report released today: https://t.co/k2sAHzc7cW pic.twitter.com/WBzM52SdcI
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) July 26, 2021