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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 12 months, 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 % within the last quarter of 2020 versus the identical time interval in 2019. The variety of civilian casualties in November was the best of any 12 months that month for the reason that U.N. started systematically documenting Afghan casualties in 2009, the report mentioned.

“2020 could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan,” mentioned Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan. “Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished due to the conflict.”

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 United States and the Taliban is below assessment by the Biden administration.

Following that settlement, made a 12 months in the past, the variety of civilian casualties for the 12 months was 15 % 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 mentioned.

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.

But civilian casualties surged within the fourth quarter as combating raged within the countryside between the Taliban and Afghan authorities forces. At the identical time, a focused assassination marketing campaign of shootings and bombings killed authorities staff and safety drive members, journalists, civil society advocates, and relations of combatants.

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

The 2,792 civilian casualties (891 deaths and 1,901 accidents) recorded within the last three months of 2020 represented the second-highest complete for this time interval since 2009.

The Taliban have denied focused assaults in opposition to anybody aside from authorities workers or supporters, however the Afghan authorities has blamed the militants for many such assaults.

Last 12 months was the seventh consecutive 12 months that the U.N. has documented greater than 3,000 civilian deaths, “with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian,” the report mentioned.

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 street map for a future Afghan authorities and dealing towards a complete cease-fire.

“Instead, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing trends and consequences,” the U.N. report mentioned.

After the 2 sides agreed on procedures to information negotiations in early December, the talks had been recessed till the primary week of January. But there have been no formal negotiations since then. Instead, 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 United States and the Taliban.

Part of the rise in fourth-quarter casualties was attributable to a rise in do-it-yourself magnetic bombs hooked up to autos and detonated by timer or distant management. The U.N. report additionally documented a continued excessive fee of civilian casualties attributable to roadside and automobile bombs detonated by the Taliban and different anti-government components.

The U.N. report attributed 62 % of civilian casualties in 2020 to anti-government components, with the Taliban blamed for 45 % of the general complete and the Islamic State in Afghanistan answerable for 8 %. Another 9 % was attributed to undetermined anti-government components. Though 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.

Government forces had been answerable for 22 % of civilian casualties for the 12 months, based on the report, with a further 2 % attributed to pro-government armed teams. The report attributed 13 % of civilian casualties to crossfire or undetermined causes.

American-led worldwide forces had been answerable for simply 1 % of civilian casualties in 2020, the report mentioned — 120 civilian deaths and accidents, a lower of 85 % 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 kept away from attacking American or different NATO forces. American commanders have typically restricted airstrikes to situations wherein authorities forces had been below excessive risk throughout Taliban assaults.

But that has not stopped U.S. plane from dropping a whole bunch of bombs with little accountability after the navy stopped publicly reporting the strikes final 12 months.

A full 12 months has handed in Afghanistan with out an American fight loss of life, the one such interval for the reason that United States invaded in 2001. The two 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 United States.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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