Afghan Civilian Casualties Soared After Peace Talks’ Begin

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties rose sharply in Afghanistan after peace negotiations between the federal government and the Taliban started in September, whilst total 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, rising by 45 p.c within the last 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 might have been the yr of peace in Afghanistan,” stated Deborah Lyons, the Particular Consultant of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan. “As a substitute, hundreds of Afghan civilians perished as a result of 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 US and the Taliban is below 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 beneath 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 identical time, a targeted assassination campaign of shootings and bombings killed authorities staff and safety pressure members, journalists, civil society advocates, and relations of combatants.

Additionally focused had been non secular 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 last three months of 2020 represented the second-highest whole for this time interval since 2009.

The Taliban have denied focused assaults in opposition to 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 earth 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 a substitute, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing tendencies 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 a substitute, there was heavy combating, as each side await a call by the Biden administration on whether or not to honor or lengthen the May 1 deadline for withdrawing the remaining 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan, as stipulated within the February 2020 settlement between the US and the Taliban.

A part of the rise in fourth-quarter casualties was attributable to a rise in do-it-yourself magnetic bombs hooked up to automobiles and detonated by timer or distant management. The U.N. report additionally documented a continued excessive charge of civilian casualties attributable to roadside and automobile 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 whole and the Islamic State in Afghanistan accountable for Eight p.c. One other 9 p.c was attributed to undetermined anti-government parts. Although the Islamic State has been weakened, and is generally 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 an extra 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 usually restricted airstrikes to situations wherein authorities forces had been below excessive menace throughout Taliban assaults.

However that has not stopped U.S. plane from dropping a whole lot of bombs with little accountability after the navy 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 US 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 US.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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