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UNAMA documents 5,939 civilian casualties in first nine months of 2020

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2020)

In a new report released Tuesday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the overall civilian casualty figure for the first nine months of this year had dropped by about 30 percent against the same period last year but that the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking.

In their latest quarterly report, UNAMA documented 5,939 civilian casualties (2,117 killed and 3,822 injured) from 1 January to 30 September 2020.

In their report, the mission said: “High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.”

UNAMA stated that while the number of civilian casualties documented is the lowest in the first nine months of any year since 2012, “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking.”

Once again the mission called on all parties to the conflict to end the violence. They said the parties “can and must do more to protect civilians from harm by urgently reviewing practices and strengthening mitigation measures, as well as working towards an end to the fighting – the only way to definitively stop conflict-related civilian casualties.”

UNAMA noted however that there had been no reduction in the documented number of civilian casualties, caused by parties involved in the current peace talks, since intra-Afghan negotiations started in September in comparison to previous weeks.

The mission said the period from 1 October is outside the scope of UNAMA’s latest quarterly report, but “raises its increasing concern over the intensification of the fighting in Helmand, as well as several indiscriminate attacks in Nangarhar, Laghman and Ghor along with an airstrike in Takhar and a suicide attack targeting civilians in Kabul that taken together killed and injured more than 400 civilians.”

“The peace talks will need some time to help deliver peace. But all parties can immediately prioritize discussions and take urgent, and frankly overdue, additional steps to stem the terrible harm to civilians,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“New thinking and concrete action towards safeguarding civilian life will not only save thousands of families from suffering and grief but it can also help lessen recriminations and, instead, bolster confidence and trust among negotiators,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA.

The mission stated that more than four out of every ten civilian casualties are children or women. Child casualties amounted to 31 percent of all civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2020, and women casualties 13 percent. UNAMA found that Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) remain responsible for the majority of civilian casualties (58 percent).

The mission also stated that attacks causing civilian casualties carried out by undetermined AGE increased. “There were more incidents, especially in relation to the use of IEDs and targeted killings, in which UNAMA could not determine which AGE group was responsible,” the report read.

“This also corresponds with a decrease in the number of incidents for which the Taliban or Islamic State of Iraq and the LevantKhorasan Province (ISIL-KP) claimed responsibility.”

Pressure-plate IEDs, used by the Taliban, function in Afghanistan as anti-personnel landmines continued to cause serious harm to civilians. The report stated that of the civilians killed by such devices, 31 percent were children and 12 percent were women.

UNAMA called on the Taliban to meet its commitments and “cease using these illegal weapons that wreak such harm on Afghan civilians.”

The mission said it also remains concerned about attacks deliberately targeting civilians, including education, health and humanitarian workers, members of the judiciary, tribal elders, religious leaders and civilian government employees.

However, ground engagements, mainly between the Taliban and the Afghan national security forces, caused the most civilian casualties, responsible for more than one-third of all civilian casualties.

This was followed by suicide and non-suicide IEDs (29 percent), targeted killings (16 percent) and airstrikes (eight percent).

Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) were responsible for more than a quarter of all civilian casualties – 28 percent and Afghan national security forces (ANSF) were responsible for 23 percent of all civilian casualties; a similar number was recorded in the first nine months of 2019.

UNAMA said almost half of civilian casualties by PGFs is caused by indirect fire, such as howitzers, mortars, rockets and grenades, often used in civilian-populated areas. “Women and children comprise almost three out of four civilian casualties from the use of these weapons by PGFs, as the projectiles often land near, or on, civilian homes,” read the report.

The mission said it was also concerned about the 70 percent increase of civilian casualties caused by Afghan Air Force airstrikes that accounted for most of the airstrike civilian casualties, which overall amounted to eight percent of civilian casualties.

On the issue of peace talks, UNAMA said the negotiations offer an opportunity for parties to the conflict to consider the irreversible loss and devastating effect that the war has had on Afghans, to acknowledge this with victims, and to address their rights to truth, justice, compensation, and reparation for the harm suffered.

“Our interviews with victims and their families reveal the near complete failure of parties to the conflict to acknowledge harm caused, nor even to make contact with them following an incident,” said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA’s Human Rights chief.

“The parties could, at minimum, acknowledge the pain caused, and look toward ways to help build reconciliation among the millions of Afghans who have suffered loss but whom desire an acknowledgement of what has happened to them, and a sustainable peace.”

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Blinken says relocation of Afghan interpreters discussed in Kuwait

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday (July 29) the subject of relocating Afghan interpreters came up during his meetings in Kuwait.

Many Afghans who worked with NATO forces fear reprisals from the Taliban as U.S. troops depart. Blinken spoke at a joint news conference with his Kuwaiti counterpart.

Blinken said the programme activated earlier this month by President Joe Biden was reviewing the eligibility of several beneficiaries and they expect many to begin arriving to the U.S. “very, very soon.”

He added that the United States was in talks with other allies on the possibility of relocating these applicants temporarily.

Blinken also added that the U.S. had demonstrated good faith and the desire to return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal, adding that “the ball remains in Iran’s court,”, but that the negotiating process could not go on indefinitely.”

Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington to revive the nuclear pact, from which then-president Donald Trump withdrew the United States, adjourned on June 20, two days after hardline cleric Ebrahim Raisi was elected president of the Islamic Republic. Raisi takes office on Aug. 5.

Parties involved in the negotiations have yet to say when they might resume.

Gulf Arab states have asked to be included in the negotiations, and for any deal to address what they call Iran’s destabilizing behaviour in the region.

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China supports peace, reconciliation process of Afghanistan: spokesman

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

China supports the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process of Afghanistan, said a spokesman of the Chinese Ministry of Defense at a regular press briefing on Thursday, accusing the United States of having an “unshirkable” responsibility for the deteriorating situation in the war-torn country.

Since the United States announced to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, the security situation has increasingly worsened there.

Some foreign media outlets commented that the U.S. retreat of its troops may make China the next major country to try to write a new chapter in the history of Afghanistan.

In response to the remarks, spokesman Wu Qian said that China will continue to uphold the ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ principle in promoting peace and reconciliation process and peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan.

“China and Afghanistan are traditional friendly neighbors. China will continue to support the ‘Afghan-led and Afghan-owned’ principle, the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and the early peaceful reconstruction of Afghanistan,” said Wu.

He also urged the Untied States not to shift its blame on the Afghan issue.

“Since the U.S. announced its withdrawal from Afghanistan, the security situation in Afghanistan has continuously deteriorated. Facts have repeatedly proven that the U.S. is the world’s top mess maker and a world-renowned shirker,” he said.

“As the culprit of the Afghan issue, the United States bears an inescapable responsibility for the current situation in Afghanistan. It cannot just leave the burden on countries in the region. The U.S. should earnestly shoulder its due responsibilities to ensure a smooth transition of the situation in Afghanistan and avoid unrest and wars caused by its retreat,” said Wu.

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Taliban assassinations of Afghan pilots ‘worrisome,’ U.S. govt watchdog says

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

At least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, two senior Afghan government officials told Reuters, part of what the Islamist Taliban says is a campaign to see U.S.-trained Afghan pilots “targeted and eliminated.”

As the United States prepares to formally end its 20-year military mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31, Taliban insurgents are quickly seizing territory once controlled by the U.S.-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, raising fears they could eventually try to take the capital Kabul.

The Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR), in its quarterly report to Congress covering the three-month period through June, broadly portrayed an Afghan Air Force (AAF) under growing strain from battling the Taliban amid the U.S. withdrawal – and becoming less ready to fight.

The AAF’s fleet of UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters, for example, had a 39 percent readiness rate in June, about half the level of April and May. All Afghan airframes were flying at least 25 percent over their recommended scheduled-maintenance intervals, SIGAR reported.

“All aircraft platforms are overtaxed due to increased requests for close air support, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance missions and aerial resupply now that the (Afghan military) largely lacks U.S. air support,” it wrote.

At the same time, air crews remain over-tasked due to the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and a pace of operations that “has only increased”, it said.

Taliban assassinations of Afghan pilots detailed by Reuters https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/afghan-pilots-assassinated-by-taliban-us-withdraws-2021-07-09 this month mark another “worrisome development” for the Afghan Air Force as it reels from a surge in fighting, a U.S. government watchdog said in a report released on Thursday.

SIGAR also cited the Reuters report.

“Another worrisome development concerning AAF aircrew was a (Reuters) report that the Taliban is deliberately targeting Afghan pilots,” it said, before presenting the Reuters’ findings without additional comment.

Along with Afghanistan’s Special Forces, the Afghan Air Force is a pillar of the nation’s strategy for preventing a Taliban takeover of cities. But special operations forces are also being misused, SIGAR reported.

It said most Afghan National Army corps refuse to execute missions without support from its elite commandos. Citing NATO data, SIGAR said that when Afghan commandos arrive, they are misused to perform tasks intended for conventional forces, including route clearance and checkpoint security.

Still, the report cautioned that it was difficult to evaluate what constituted military misuse of the elite forces when the Afghan government “is fighting for its existence”.

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