Stern steps needed to protect Afghan civilians - GulfToday

Stern steps needed to protect Afghan civilians

Afghan Civilians

Attacks directed at civilians are clear violations of international humanitarian law.

Hardly a day passed by since the United Nations declared that violence against civilians in Afghanistan had reached unacceptable levels, the country witnessed another dastardly bomb attack inside a mosque, which claimed the lives of several innocent people.

Meaningless violence has become a norm in Afghanistan. Attacks directed at civilians are clear violations of international humanitarian law.

The country has been bleeding for years and the situation has to change. Ordinary Afghans should not anymore be forced to live in constant insecurity and fear.

Dozens of worshippers were gathered inside the mosque in eastern Afghanistan to offer Friday prayers when a mortar round fired by insurgents blasted through the roof.

Those who organised the cowardly, monstrous attack should be swiftly brought to justice and held to account.

Attacks targeting helpless civilians never seem to end. On Thursday, in western Herat province, six civilians, including four children, were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report published on Thursday clearly indicated that Afghanistan has seen record-high levels of civilian casualties in the third quarter of 2019, stemming mainly from the violence between rival political party supporters.

In just the first nine months of 2019 overall, UNAMA counted more than 8,200 civilian casualties — 2,563 killed and 5,676 injured — similar to figures in the corresponding nine-month periods from 2014 onwards. But the last three months, has seen an unprecedented number of civilian casualties.

In July, the mission documented the country’s bloodiest month on record, with the highest number of civilian casualties in a single month since the UN began systematic documentation in the country, in 2009.

As Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, points out, civilian casualties at record-high levels clearly show the need for all parties concerned to pay much more attention to protecting the civilian population, including through a review of conduct during combat operations.

The never-ending fighting has been forcing civilians to live under the constant threat of being targeted by militants or being caught up in ground fighting, or becoming inadvertent victims of air strikes by Afghan government and foreign forces.

The UN report documented that from the New Year through Sept.30, anti-government elements were responsible for more than 5,000 civilian casualties, comprising 62 per cent of total civilian casualties for the time period.

As for technical causes, suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) claimed 42 per cent of all casualties, while ground engagements were the second leading cause of harm to civilians, at 29 per cent, followed by aerial attacks which caused the majority of civilian deaths, and made up 11 per cent of total casualties.

A note should be taken of the fact that 41 per cent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan were women and children.

The continued violence resulting in a number of deaths and casualties of civilians indicates that measures against terrorism in the country need to be intensified.

An entire generation of children has witnessed nothing but bloody violence. At a time when they should be studying in schools and playing in the gardens, Afghan children have been bearing the brunt of senseless violence with no solution in sight.

There is a strong desire among Afghan people for sustainable peace and that should be respected. All sides should wholeheartedly embrace a peace process that ensures the long-term prosperity and stability of the country.