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Sharp increase in civilian casualties this year: UNAMA Report

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

UNAMA has found that the number of civilians killed and injured in the first three months of 2021 was significantly higher than a year ago.

In its first quarter report on the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2021, UNAMA stated that 1,783 civilian casualties (573 killed and 1,210 injured) were recorded in the first three months of this year – a 29 percent increase against the same period last year.

UNAMA stated that extraordinary levels of harm inflicted on civilians in the Afghan conflict continues unabated and that “of particular concern is the 37 percent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and a 23 percent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020”.

Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said: “The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence.”

UNAMA stated that the start of peace talks in September last year raised hopes for an improvement in the situation for civilians but in the six months between October 2020 and March 2021, UNAMA recorded a 38 percent increase in civilian casualties compared with the same period one year earlier.

“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA.

The overall increase in civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2021 was mainly driven by the same trends that caused the increase at the end of last year: ground engagements; improvised explosive devices; and targeted killings, UNAMA stated.

Anti-Government Elements continued to be responsible for the majority (61 percent) of all civilian casualties in the first three months of 2021, while Pro-Government Forces continued to cause approximately one quarter (27 percent) of the total civilian casualties.

In the first three months of 2021, UNAMA documented increases in the number of civilian casualties as compared to the first quarter of 2020, attributed to both the Afghan National Army, and the Taliban, with the Taliban responsible for 43.5 percent of all civilian casualties, and the Afghan National Army responsible for 17 percent.

UNAMA also stated it remains deeply concerned about the continued deliberate targeting of civilians by Anti-Government Elements, particularly through targeted killings – against civilians including media workers, civil society activists, members of the judiciary and the civilian government administration, including a particularly worrying trend of targeting of women.

“UNAMA reminds Anti-Government Elements that the deliberate targeting of civilians is prohibited under international law and constitutes a war crime. The mission urges Anti-Government Elements to apply a definition of civilian that accords with international law and to immediately cease all targeting of civilians,” the report read.

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Taliban capture key dam in Kandahar province

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

The Taliban has captured Afghanistan’s second-biggest dam after months of fierce fighting in its former bastion of Kandahar, the group and officials said, as the US forces have begun the withdrawal of its troops from the country after 20 years, AFP reported.

The Dahla Dam, which provides irrigation to farmers via a network of canals as well as drinking water for the provincial capital, was now under Taliban control, local officials told AFP news agency on Thursday.

A Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf also confirmed this and said: “We have seized the Dahla Dam in Arghandab.”

Haji Gulbuddin, governor of an adjacent district, confirmed the dam “is now in the control of the Taliban”, AFP reported.

“Our security forces … asked for reinforcements but they failed to get it,” he said.

Kandahar water department chief Tooryalay Mahboobi told AFP the Taliban recently warned Dahla employees not to go to work.

Last month the armed fighters blew up a bridge that connected the dam to adjacent districts, AFP reported.

Dahla was built by the US nearly 70 years ago to provide water for irrigating land in about seven districts of Kandahar.

In 2019, the Asian Development Bank approved a grant of nearly $350m to be used partly to expand the reservoir-style project.

The surrounding district has seen intense fighting in the past six months, but officials announced in April that the area had been cleared.

Before retreating, the Taliban planted explosives across the area – including in residential complexes – officials said.

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Pentagon chief says removal of all contractors from Afghanistan under way

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday the process of removing all contractors from Afghanistan working with the United States was under way as part of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of forces from the country.

The remarks are the clearest indication yet that Biden’s April order to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 extended to U.S.-funded contractors.

Asked whether the Pentagon had issued orders to withdraw not just American troops but also contractors, Austin said: “We’re going to responsibly retrograde all of our capabilities that we are responsible for and the contractors fall in that realm as well.”

Speaking with reporters, Austin said the contractors could, however, renegotiate their contracts in the future.

As of April, there were nearly 17,000 Pentagon contractors, including about 6,150 Americans, 4,300 Afghans and 6,400 from other countries.

The departure of thousands of contractors, especially those serving the Afghan security forces, has raised concerns among some U.S. officials about the ability of the Afghan government and military to sustain critical functions.

‘NOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION’

Austin said the drawdown was going according to plan so far.

But Afghan security forces are locked in daily combat with the Taliban, which has waged war to overthrow the foreign-backed government since it was ousted from power in Kabul in 2001.

In just two days, the Taliban captured a second district in the northern province of Baghlan on Thursday.

The Afghan government says the Taliban have killed and wounded more than 50 troops in attacks in at least 26 provinces during the last 24 hours, while its forces killed dozens of Taliban over the same period.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said there had been sustained levels of violent attacks against Afghan security forces but none against U.S. and coalition forces since May 1.

Milley, in the same news conference, said it was too early to speculate on how Afghanistan would turn out after the withdrawal of U.S. forces given that Afghanistan had a significantly sized military and police force and the Afghan government was still cohesive.

“It is not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls or any of those dire predictions,” Milley said.

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Power pylons destroyed, leaving Kabul in the dark

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

Two electricity pylons in the north of the city were blown up early on Friday morning, the main power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said.

The incident happened in Mirzakhil village in Kalakan district of Kabul at around 4:45 am on Friday in which two power pylons that transmit imported 220 kilovolts of power from Uzbekistan to Kabul were destroyed and a third pylon was partly damaged, read DABS statement.

Locals say they woke up to the sound of an explosion, but no one was injured in the area.

“Bomb has been placed near another power pylon in the area, but a team from the Afghan army is in the area to defuse the bomb,” DABS said.

DABS said that its workers will be sent to the area once the area is safe.

So far no group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

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