UN says Afghan civilian casualties down by 15% final yr


KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The variety of civilians killed and wounded in violence throughout war-weary Afghanistan fell by 15% final yr in comparison with 2019, in response to a United Nations report launched Tuesday.

The U.N. Help Mission in Afghanistan and the U.N. Human Rights Workplace attributed the drop in civilian casualties partly to an obvious tactical change by insurgents to focused killings, fewer suicide bombings and a stark drop in casualties attributed to worldwide army forces.

Nonetheless, Afghanistan stays among the many deadliest locations on the earth to be a civilian. A distressing characteristic of the battle stays the disproportionate impression on Afghan ladies and kids, who make up 43% of all casualties.

The assaults focusing on civilians embody assaults on members of the judiciary, media and activists. Additionally focused have been spiritual minorities, particularly the Shiite Muslim inhabitants, most of whom additionally belong to the Hazara ethnic group, and the Sikh inhabitants.

The general variety of civilian casualties in 2020 of 8,820 — together with 3,035 killed and 5,785 others wounded — fell beneath 10,000 for the primary time since 2013. Final yr’s whole was 15% down in comparison with 2019, the U.N. mentioned.

Afghanistan has seen a nationwide spike in bombings, focused killings and violence on the battlefield as peace negotiations in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan authorities have stalled. It’s been over a month for the reason that sides final met to debate tips on how to proceed.

In the meantime, President Joe Biden’s administration is reviewing the U.S.-Taliban peace deal that was signed Feb. 29 final yr. As a part of it, Washington dedicated to a Might 1 withdrawal of all international troops from Afghanistan.

Afghanistan peace negotiations between representatives of the Afghan authorities and the Taliban in Qatar started on Sept. 12 however have did not alleviate the size of civilian hurt — a key indicator of violence ranges. As an alternative, there was an escalation of violence within the fourth quarter of the yr.

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For the primary time because it started systematic documentation in 2009, UNAMA tallied a rise civilian casualties recorded within the fourth quarter in contrast with the third quarter. As well as, this era marked a 45% enhance in civilian casualties in comparison with the identical three months in 2019, particularly from the usage of improvised explosive units and focused killings.

In October, civilian casualties have been the very best of any month in 2020, and in November UNAMA documented the very best variety of civilian casualties of any November because it began systematic documentation in 2009. Alongside the general enhance in violence because the yr ended, the inhabitants was confronted with a spate of focused killings, referred to by many as “assassinations,” of civilians, together with media, civil society activists, members of the judiciary and the civilian authorities administration, in addition to civilian relations of combatants.

“2020 might have been the yr of peace in Afghanistan. As an alternative, 1000’s of Afghan civilians perished as a result of battle,” mentioned Deborah Lyons, the U.N.’s particular consultant of the secretary-general for Afghanistan. “This necessary report has the overriding goal of offering the events accountable with the information, and proposals, in order that they take fast and concrete steps to guard civilians. I urge them to not squander a single day in taking the pressing steps to keep away from extra struggling.”

The report blamed 62% of casualties on anti-government forces in 2020 with the Taliban answerable for most of them — 46% — and the Islamic State group answerable for 8%.

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Professional-government forces induced 1 / 4 of all civilian casualties, totaling 2,231, the report mentioned. That features 841 killed and 1,390 wounded, a lower of 24% from 2019, with the Afghan nationwide safety forces inflicting most of those — 22% of the overall.

Whereas there was a rise within the variety of civilian casualties that have been unclaimed by any celebration and for which UNAMA couldn’t attribute duty, the report discovered the Taliban induced 19% fewer civilian casualties than in 2019 and IS induced 45% fewer than the pervious yr.

Floor engagements have been the main reason for civilian casualties in 2020. They have been answerable for 36% of civilian casualties, a slight enhance in contrast with 2019. Subsequent have been suicide and non-suicide assaults utilizing improvised explosive units, which induced 34.5% of the casualties final yr, a 30% lower. Anti-government forces focused killings induced 14% of casualties in 2020, up by 45%, and pro-government airstrikes induced 8% of casualties, down 34%.

“Finally, the easiest way to guard civilians is to determine a humanitarian ceasefire,” mentioned Lyons, who can also be head of UNAMA. “Events refusing to contemplate a ceasefire should acknowledge the devastating penalties of such a posture on the lives of Afghan civilians.”

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