More than 100,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured over the past decade, the United Nations reported Thursday, as it renewed calls to end the bloody 18-year conflict.
The announcement comes as the Taliban and US continue to hold talks aimed at drawing a close to America’s longest war, after the negotiations were called off in September by President Donald Trump due to insurgent attacks.
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) February 15, 2018
Mr Trump questioned the Taliban’s commitment to peace after they launched an attack that killed 12 people, including an American soldier, as initial details of the proposals were being released.
Taliban officials were shocked by the decision, countering that US forces had also been carrying out attacks as talks had been going on.
Some welcomed the move, warning that President Trump’s repeatedly stated desire to cut costs and bring the roughly 13,000 US troops home risked handing Afghanistan back to the Taliban – leaving stranded those who had struggled to improve women’s rights, create a free press, and build a nascent democracy.
Nine former US ambassadors to Afghanistan wrote a statement warning of the risk of “total civil war” if troops were withdrawn before a final peace deal.
However fighting continues to rage across the country, with ordinary Afghans frequently bearing the brunt of the violence.
“I recognize with extreme sadness that civilian casualties recently surpassed 100,000 in the past 10 years alone, from the time the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began systematic documentation of civilian casualties,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN special representative in Afghanistan, said in a statement.
“The United Nations urges those participating in all peace efforts to consider the millions of ordinary Afghans, especially the victims of the conflict, who want a chance to live in peace so they can rebuild their lives.”
The grim milestone also comes days after officials announced preliminary results in Afghanistan’s latest presidential elections that put President Ashraf Ghani on track to secure a second term.
The Taliban have long viewed Ghani as an American stooge and have refused to negotiate with him, leading many to fear that fighting will continue even if the US secures an eventual deal with the militants.
Earlier this year, the UN reported that an “unprecedented” number of civilians had been killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July 1 to September 30 this year, saying there had been 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injuries in that period.
A UN tally found that last year was the deadliest on record, with at least 3,804 civilian deaths caused by the war — including 927 children.
According to the monthly casualty report published by the New York Times by reporters located in the country, an approximate 23 civilians were killed between 13th-19thDecember 2019. In the Jaghatu District of the Ghazni province, a roadside bomb killed 10 civilians who were traveling by shuttle bus. Later in the week, another 10 civilians were killed by a roadside bomb in the Abo Khana area of Alisher District.
The week before that took the lives of 13 civilians. In Parwan Province, a medical facility attached to Bagram Airfield, the largest American military base in Afghanistan, was targeted by a car bomb, killing two civilians and wounding 73 more.
So extensive was the damage that even houses up to 650 feet away from the site of the attack were destroyed. The previous day, another four civilians in the Baraki Barak District were killed by mortars fired by American forces.
GVS News Desk with additions from news agencies