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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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Fears of Taliban takeover post troop withdrawal are overblown: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

The US special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said Tuesday predictions that the Taliban will quickly overrun Afghan government forces and conquer Kabul once U.S. and coalition forces have withdrawn are unduly pessimistic.

Testifying before the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, Khalilzad said: “I personally believe that the statements that their (Afghan) forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken.”

His comments came as committee members expressed concern that President Joe Biden’s decision to fully withdraw all troops by September 11 will lead to chaos and intensified civil war.

AP reported that Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and withdrawal critic, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaida.

“It seems all but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. 

“They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made. Without a military presence in country, the U.S. is giving them room to deepen their relationship with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, who may seek to launch external attacks on us and our allies from the country once again.”

Khalilzad argued that the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. 

“They say they seek normalcy in terms of relations — acceptability, removal from sanctions, not to remain a pariah,” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad said the U.S. military withdrawal is proceeding “so far so good,” and added: “We expect that to continue.” 

He said diplomatic efforts are underway to seek agreements with neighboring countries to position U.S. counterterrorism forces within strike distance of Afghanistan to be able to respond to future threats.

 

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Five military facilities handed over to Defense Ministry: CENTCOM

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

U.S. Central Command said Tuesday that about 115 C-17 military cargo loads of material have been flown out of Afghanistan and more than 5,000 pieces of equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction.

According to a statement issued by CENTCOM, the U.S. has officially handed over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. 

“U.S. Central Command estimates that we have completed between 13-20% of the entire retrograde process,” the statement read.

The foreign troops withdrawal process started officially on May 1 and according to U.S. President Joe Biden it will be complete by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States. 

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NSA says all leverage possible needed to get Taliban to talks tables

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

Afghan National Security Advisor (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib said Tuesday that all forms of leverage must be used to get the Taliban to actively engage in peace talks.

Mohib’s comments come amid an uptick in attacks by the Taliban in many province across the country following the three-day Eid ceasefire.

On Monday, Mohib discussed the Afghan peace process with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in a phone conversation.

According to Mohib’s office, Wang assured Mohib of China’s full support for peace, stating: “China wants an independent, sovereign and unified Afghanistan.”

Wang noted that a political settlement is the only viable solution for ending the long-term war in Afghanistan.

Mohib’s office stated that the two sides identified terrorism as a common threat that both sides should fight.

“Wang Yi offered that China can increase its efforts, including regionally, in support of peace in Afghanistan,” the organization said.

Meanwhile, Mohib told Wang that “Afghanistan believes all levers of influence should be used to induce Taliban to engage earnestly in peace, including UN sanctions and other avenues where China’s unique capabilities can be helpful.”

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