Afghan Civilian Casualties Soared After Peace Talks’ Start

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties rose sharply in Afghanistan after peace negotiations between the federal government and the Taliban started in September, whilst general deaths and accidents dropped throughout 2020 in contrast with the earlier yr, the United Nations reported Tuesday.

In its annual report documenting civilian accidents and deaths, the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan discovered that the escalation in civilian casualties started shortly after intra-Afghan negotiations opened on Sept. 12 in Doha, Qatar, growing by 45 p.c within the closing quarter of 2020 versus the identical time interval in 2019. The variety of civilian casualties in November was the very best of any yr that month for the reason that U.N. started systematically documenting Afghan casualties in 2009, the report stated.

“2020 may have been the yr of peace in Afghanistan,” stated Deborah Lyons, the Particular Consultant of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan. “As an alternative, hundreds of Afghan civilians perished because of the battle.”

The report was launched as talks between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban stay stalled amid unrelenting violence, and a February 2020 settlement between the USA and the Taliban is underneath evaluate by the Biden administration.

Following that settlement, made a yr in the past, the variety of civilian casualties for the yr was 15 p.c decrease than in 2019. The 8,820 civilian casualties documented in 2020 — 3,035 killed and 5,785 wounded — represented the primary time since 2013 that this determine dropped under 10,000, the report stated.

The decline was attributed to a discount by the Taliban of mass casualty assaults in main cities and a decline within the variety of American airstrikes — each of which contributed to excessive civilian casualty charges in earlier years.

However civilian casualties surged within the fourth quarter as combating raged within the countryside between the Taliban and Afghan authorities forces. On the similar time, a targeted assassination campaign of shootings and bombings killed authorities staff and safety drive members, journalists, civil society advocates, and members of the family of combatants.

Additionally focused had been spiritual minorities, particularly Hazaras, most of whom are Shiite Muslim, and the nation’s small Sikh inhabitants.

The two,792 civilian casualties (891 deaths and 1,901 accidents) recorded within the closing three months of 2020 represented the second-highest complete for this time interval since 2009.

The Taliban have denied focused assaults towards anybody apart from authorities workers or supporters, however the Afghan authorities has blamed the militants for many such assaults.

Final yr was the seventh consecutive yr that the U.N. has documented greater than 3,000 civilian deaths, “with Afghanistan remaining among the many deadliest locations on the planet to be a civilian,” the report stated.

The report famous that many Afghans had hoped that violence would diminish after authorities and Taliban negotiators started formal talks, that are geared toward agreeing on a highway map for a future Afghan authorities and dealing towards a complete cease-fire.

“As an alternative, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing traits and penalties,” the U.N. report stated.

After the 2 sides agreed on procedures to information negotiations in early December, the talks were recessed till the primary week of January. However there have been no formal negotiations since then. As an alternative, there was heavy combating, as each side await a call by the Biden administration on whether or not to honor or prolong the May 1 deadline for withdrawing the remaining 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan, as stipulated within the February 2020 settlement between the USA and the Taliban.

A part of the rise in fourth-quarter casualties was attributable to a rise in selfmade magnetic bombs connected to autos and detonated by timer or distant management. The U.N. report additionally documented a continued excessive price of civilian casualties attributable to roadside and automotive bombs detonated by the Taliban and different anti-government parts.

The U.N. report attributed 62 p.c of civilian casualties in 2020 to anti-government parts, with the Taliban blamed for 45 p.c of the general complete and the Islamic State in Afghanistan accountable for 8 p.c. One other 9 p.c was attributed to undetermined anti-government parts. Although the Islamic State has been weakened, and is usually contained within the east, it has turned to guerrilla-style and mass-casualty assaults in city areas, because it makes an attempt to rebuild its ranks.

Authorities forces had been accountable for 22 p.c of civilian casualties for the yr, based on the report, with a further 2 p.c attributed to pro-government armed teams. The report attributed 13 p.c of civilian casualties to crossfire or undetermined causes.

American-led worldwide forces had been accountable for simply 1 p.c of civilian casualties in 2020, the report stated — 120 civilian deaths and accidents, a lower of 85 p.c from 2019, when 786 casualties had been attributed to worldwide forces. It was the bottom quantity in that class since 2009.

After the February 2020 settlement, the Taliban shunned attacking American or different NATO forces. American commanders have typically restricted airstrikes to situations by which authorities forces had been underneath excessive menace throughout Taliban assaults.

However that has not stopped U.S. plane from dropping a whole bunch of bombs with little accountability after the army stopped publicly reporting the strikes final yr.

A full yr has handed in Afghanistan without an American combat death, the one such interval since the USA invaded in 2001. The 2 most up-to-date American fight deaths in Afghanistan occurred on Feb. 8, 2020, three weeks earlier than the settlement was signed between the Taliban and the USA.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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