Afghan men inspect the site of Sunday's attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on Monday. Mohammad Ismail/ Reuters
Civilians are being killed and wounded at a “shocking and unacceptable” level in Afghanistan’s war despite a push to end the 18-year-old conflict, the UN said on Tuesday.
The latest information from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows an almost 30 per cent drop in casualties for the first half of 2019 compared to the same period last year — which was a record — but nonetheless, 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 injured.
While the UN welcomed the drop, it “continues to regard the level of harm done to civilians as shocking and unacceptable,” UNAMA said in a statement.
The agency “acknowledges that parties have announced efforts to reduce civilian casualties, but they are insufficient.”
UNAMA also said that for the second quarter running, US and pro-government forces caused more civilian deaths than the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
During the first half of 2019 pro-government forces, including the US, killed 717 civilians, an increase of 31 per cent from a year earlier.
Most of the deaths came from US and Afghan air strikes, often in support of national forces on the ground.
Afghanistan’s bloody toll is climbing amid a months-long, US-led push to forge a peace deal with the Taliban that would see foreign forces quit the country in return for various security guarantees.
Earlier this month as part of that effort, Taliban officials met at a historic summit with Afghan representatives at an “intra-Afghan dialogue” in Doha.
Delegates issued a vague resolution that included a pledge to reduce civilian casualties to “zero,” but in the weeks since, ordinary Afghans have continued to be killed and wounded.
“Everyone heard the message loud and clear from Afghan delegates in the Doha talks — ‘reduce civilian casualties to zero!’” UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement.
“We urge all parties to heed this imperative, to answer the call of Afghans for immediate steps to be taken to reduce the terrible harm being inflicted.”
Child casualties represented almost one-third of the overall total of civilian casualties, with 327 deaths and 880 injured, UNAMA said.
A UN tally found last year was the deadliest on record, with at least 3,804 civilian deaths caused by the war — including 927 children.
Their meeting came during a marathon multi-country tour by Khalilzad, who is to visit Qatar — the usual venue for talks with the Taliban.
The US special peace envoy for Afghanistan should stop calling on Taliban militants to lay down their arms and convince the United States to end the use of force instead, the Taliban said on Friday.
The somber statistic reflects what many say is a growing problem in Afghanistan's brutal war, in which civilians die not only in massive suicide bombings and insurgent attacks but also in the cross-fire as Afghan and Nato forces pursue militants.
President Donald Trump halted talks with the group, aimed at striking a deal for US and other foreign troops to withdraw in exchange for Taliban security guarantees, after it carried out a bomb attack in Kabul that killed 12 people, including a US soldier.
Residents said that hundreds of commandos were deployed to the western city of Herat while authorities in the southern city of Lashkar Gah called for more troops to rein in the assaults even as Afghan air strikes left scores dead on the streets.
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