Mon. Mar 1st, 2021
Afghan Civilian Casualties Soared After Peace Talks’ Start

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties rose sharply in Afghanistan right after peace negotiations involving the government and the Taliban started in September, even as general deaths and injuries dropped through 2020 in contrast with the prior yr, the United Nations reported Tuesday.

In its yearly report documenting civilian injuries and deaths, the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan observed that the escalation in civilian casualties started shortly right after intra-Afghan negotiations opened on Sept. twelve in Doha, Qatar, growing by 45 % in the last quarter of 2020 versus the exact same time time period in 2019. The amount of civilian casualties in November was the highest of any yr that month due to the fact the U.N. started systematically documenting Afghan casualties in 2009, the report mentioned.

“2020 could have been the yr of peace in Afghanistan,” mentioned Deborah Lyons, the Particular Representative of the U.N. secretary-common for Afghanistan. “Instead, 1000’s of Afghan civilians perished due to the conflict.”

The report was launched as talks involving the Afghan government and the Taliban stay stalled amid unrelenting violence, and a February 2020 agreement involving the United States and the Taliban is underneath overview by the Biden administration.

Following that agreement, manufactured a yr in the past, the amount of civilian casualties for the yr was 15 % reduced than in 2019. The eight,820 civilian casualties documented in 2020 — three,035 killed and five,785 wounded — represented the initially time due to the fact 2013 that this figure dropped beneath ten,000, the report mentioned.

The decline was attributed to a reduction by the Taliban of mass casualty attacks in important cities and a decline in the amount of American airstrikes — the two of which contributed to large civilian casualty charges in prior many years.

But civilian casualties surged in the fourth quarter as fighting raged in the countryside involving the Taliban and Afghan government forces. At the exact same time, a targeted assassination campaign of shootings and bombings killed government staff and protection force members, journalists, civil society advocates, and household members of combatants.

Also targeted have been religious minorities, specifically Hazaras, most of whom are Shiite Muslim, and the country’s tiny Sikh population.

The two,792 civilian casualties (891 deaths and one,901 injuries) recorded in the last 3 months of 2020 represented the 2nd-highest complete for this time time period due to the fact 2009.

The Taliban have denied targeted attacks towards any one other than government personnel or supporters, but the Afghan government has blamed the militants for most this kind of attacks.

Final yr was the seventh consecutive yr that the U.N. has documented additional than three,000 civilian deaths, “with Afghanistan remaining amid the deadliest destinations in the globe to be a civilian,” the report mentioned.

The report mentioned that a lot of Afghans had hoped that violence would diminish right after government and Taliban negotiators started formal talks, which are aimed at agreeing on a street map for a long term Afghan government and operating towards a complete cease-fire.

“Instead, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing trends and consequences,” the U.N. report mentioned.

Soon after the two sides agreed on procedures to manual negotiations in early December, the talks have been recessed until eventually the initially week of January. But there have been no formal negotiations due to the fact then. Alternatively, there has been hefty fighting, as the two sides await a choice by the Biden administration on irrespective of whether to honor or lengthen the May well one deadline for withdrawing the remaining two,500 American troops in Afghanistan, as stipulated in the February 2020 agreement involving the United States and the Taliban.

Aspect of the improve in fourth-quarter casualties was induced by an improve in homemade magnetic bombs connected to motor vehicles and detonated by timer or remote manage. The U.N. report also documented a continued large charge of civilian casualties induced by roadside and auto bombs detonated by the Taliban and other anti-government components.

The U.N. report attributed 62 % of civilian casualties in 2020 to anti-government components, with the Taliban blamed for 45 % of the general complete and the Islamic State in Afghanistan accountable for eight %. An additional 9 % was attributed to undetermined anti-government components. However the Islamic State has been weakened, and is mainly contained in the east, it has turned to guerrilla-type and mass-casualty attacks in urban locations, as it attempts to rebuild its ranks.

Government forces have been accountable for 22 % of civilian casualties for the yr, in accordance to the report, with an extra two % attributed to professional-government armed groups. The report attributed 13 % of civilian casualties to crossfire or undetermined triggers.

American-led global forces have been accountable for just one % of civilian casualties in 2020, the report mentioned — 120 civilian deaths and injuries, a reduce of 85 % from 2019, when 786 casualties have been attributed to global forces. It was the lowest amount in that group due to the fact 2009.

Soon after the February 2020 agreement, the Taliban refrained from attacking American or other NATO forces. American commanders have normally constrained airstrikes to cases in which government forces have been underneath intense risk through Taliban assaults.

But that has not stopped U.S. aircraft from dropping hundreds of bombs with very little accountability right after the military stopped publicly reporting the strikes final yr.

A complete yr has passed in Afghanistan without having an American fight death, the only this kind of time period due to the fact the United States invaded in 2001. The two most latest American fight deaths in Afghanistan occurred on Feb. eight, 2020, 3 weeks in advance of the agreement was signed involving the Taliban and the United States.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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