By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: Over 100,000 civilians have been killed or injured by the war in Afghanistan in the past decade, the United Nations said in a report released Saturday.
The announcement came just hours after the U.S. and Afghan militaries began a weeklong period of reduced violence with the Taliban, which could lead to a peace agreement being signed between the U.S. and the insurgents next week and an eventual withdrawal of American forces from the country.
Despite the “grim milestone,” the overall number of civilian war casualties documented last year dropped to a six-year low, the U.N. said, adding that the decrease was largely due to fewer attacks by the local Islamic State affiliate.
The number of noncombatants killed or injured by the U.S. and the Taliban both increased last years compared to the year before, as the sides engaged in peace talks, the U.N.’s data showed.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented over 3,400 civilians killed and nearly 7,000 injured by the war in 2019, a 5% decrease from the year before.
“Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement. “It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue.”
UNAMA attributed most of the civilian casualties caused in 2019 to anti-government forces. Of the nearly 1,700 deaths and nearly 4,800 injures attributed to these groups, 76% were blamed on the Taliban, which is about a quarter jump from the previous year.
Attacks attributed to the Islamic State group, the second major anti-government organization in Afghanistan in recent years, dropped by 44% last year compared to the year before, resulting in about 300 civilians killed and over 900 injured, UNAMA said.
ISIS has been one of the main groups targeted by the U.S. military’s counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan and was denied key terrain in 2019. In November, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said ISIS has been “obliterated” from the country. However, the group still has thousands of fighters in Afghanistan, according to the latest military estimates.
Pro-government forces — which include the U.S. military — caused over a quarter of all civilian causalities last year: 1,473 killed and 1,460 injured. The combined total is the highest number attributed to pro-government forces since UNAMA began systematic documentation a decade ago.
UNAMA said International military forces — a term largely synonymous with the U.S. military, which is the only foreign military officially conducting combat operations in Afghanistan — caused nearly 660 civilian deaths and 320 injuries last year, an overall increase of about 20% from the previous year.
These were largely the results of airstrikes, which caused a record number of casualties in 2019, surpassing the previous highest-ever tally recorded the year before, UNAMA said.