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Watchdog reports a dramatic increase in civilian casualties

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(Last Updated On: August 1, 2021)

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Sunday said in a new report that in the first six months of this year, 5,321 civilians have been killed or injured, a substantial increase against the same period last year.

According to the report, the AIHRC said in 1,594 different security incidents, a total of 5,321 civilians have been killed or injured in the first six months of 2021. Among these civilian casualties, 1,677 were killed, and 3,644 were injured.

This was in comparison to 2,957, including 1,213 killed and 1,744 injured, in the first six months of last year.

The AIHRC stated that a total of 154 women were killed and 350 wounded between January and June this year.

The number of women civilian casualties in the first six months of 2020 was 297 in total which included 126 killed, and 171 injured.

The watchdog reported that this meant there was a 69 percent rise in women civilian casualties in the first six months of 2021 in comparison with the first six months of 2020.

In the first half of 2021, the number of child casualties was 1,456 – 373 children were killed, and 1,083 others were injured.

The number of child casualties in the first six months of 2020 was 630 (225 killed, and 405 injured).

The comparison of the above figures clearly shows that war principles and International Humanitarian Law have been violated. The number of child casualties increased by 131% in the first six months of 2021 compared to the first six months of 2020.

AIHRC stated that according to its findings, out of the total number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2021, the Taliban is responsible for 56 percent, pro-government forces are responsible for 15 percent, Daesh is responsible for seven percent, and unknown perpetrators are responsible for 22 percent.

The Taliban is responsible for 2,978 civilian casualties (917 killed, and 2,061 injured) in the first six months of 2021, read the statement.

Unknown perpetrators were responsible for another 1,190 civilian deaths and injuries in the first half of this year, including 425 civilians killed and 765 civilians injured. These attacks have not been claimed by any groups or individuals.

In addition, 16 civilians have been harmed due to rocket attacks from Pakistan to Afghanistan territory in the first six months of 2021. This includes two civilians killed, and 14 others injured.

Daesh meanwhile was responsible for 343 civilian casualties (104 killed, 239 killed) in the first six months of 2021. In the first six months of last year, Daesh was responsible for 429 civilian casualties (145 killed, 284 injured).

A comparison of both periods shows 20 percent reduction in 2021.

The watchdog found that the use of IEDs, roadside mines and car bombs in the first half of the year accounted for 37 percent of the total civilian casualties.

The number of civilian casualties caused by explosions tripled in the first six months of 2021 compared with the same period in the previous year.

Targeted killings also increased sharply in the first six months compared to last year.

This year it accounted for 30 percent of the total number of civilian casualties. This includes 1,634 civilian casualties (696 killed, 938 injured).

The number of civilian casualties caused by targeted killings during the same period in 2020 was 945 in total which included 533 killed and 412 injured.

This shows a 110 percent increase in the number of civilian casualties caused by targeted killing in the first six months of this year compared with the same period in the previous year.

Rocket fire, sucide attacks, airstrikes, night raids and ground engagements were other key types of war tactics used, which led to civilian casualties.

This was followed by the Central Zone, Kabul, Wardak, Kapisa, Parwan, Panjsher, Ghazni, Bamiyan, Daikundi.

In addition to this, the AIHRC found that 39 power pylons were destroyed by unknown people in the first six months of 2021 in different provinces including Kabul, Parwan, Baghlan, and Kunduz.

In addition, the ongoing armed conflict in the current year has resulted in destruction of 130 bridges and culverts, 13 schools, and three clinics only in the first six months of 2021.

“The above statistics are alarming and obvious examples of violating war principles,” the watchdog said in the statement.

The AIHRC once again called on all parties to the conflict to respect the demands of the AIHRC and to implement its recommendations; otherwise, the responsibilities and consequences of violations will lie with the violators, causing civilians casualties and destruction of public facilities and the personal properties.

Their list of recommendations were as follows:

1. AIHRC believes that dialogue and negotiations are the most humane, logical, and effective ways to resolve conflicts and we are reiterating it more seriously and stressing our previous stances in this regard. The country’s problems can be solved behind the negotiating table, not on the battlefield;

2. The Commission once again calls on the United Nations, domestic and international organizations and institutions influencing the war and peace in Afghanistan, as well as the international community, to use all their resources, opportunities, and capacities to end the current violence and devastating war before it leads to more human catastrophes;

3. We call on the Taliban, more specifically and emphatically, to care the suffering of the Afghan people, respect the interests of the country, the collective rights and aspirations of its citizens; in order to resolve disputed issues and achieve a just peace, they should return to the negotiation table and meaningful dialogue and pave the way for a long-term ceasefire and peace;

4. All parties to the Afghan war are required to respect international humanitarian law and standards, as well as not diverge from the laws and regulations of war during armed conflict. Any infringement of these regulations will result in severe penalties for the violators, who will be tried fairly and judicially in all circumstances;

5. According to international humanitarian law, the deliberate and systematic killing and harming of civilians is a clear example of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and if such approaches are motivated by hatred of certain ethnic, religious, or social groups, they are considered genocide and cannot be forgiven. The Government of Afghanistan and the relevant international organizations must seriously prosecute the perpetrators of such crimes;

6. The use of people as human shield as well as war in residential areas, clearly causes enormous harm to civilians, particularly children and women, and is an evident violation of international humanitarian law. Neither side in the fight should employ such cruel and brutal tactics. Furthermore, hostage-taking, assassination, targeted killings, and extrajudicial trials cannot be justified, and no military unit should engage in such tactics;

7. We specifically call on the Taliban to treat detainees and prisoners in accordance with international humanitarian law, and to guarantee that no captives or detainees are punished or brutally killed as a result of the extrajudicial measures, and prevent retaliatory actions by their men;

8. Emotional remarks and the issuance of instructions contrary to international human rights and humanitarian principles by some Afghan government officials have raised serious concerns among civil society organizations, the AIHRC, and the country’s intellectual community; we urge the leadership of the Government of Afghanistan to refrain from such destructive and extra-legal approaches;

9. The Taliban leadership is strongly urged to investigate all cases of violations of international humanitarian law in areas under their control and to prevent further harm to the country’s civilian people by stopping anti-human rights actions by their militants and commanders. The leadership of the Taliban must explain to the Afghan people the results of its work in this regard;

10. We urge the government’s armed opposition to align its definition of civilians with international humanitarian law principles and to refrain from attacking Afghan government civil servants, civil society activists, human rights defenders, aid organizations, journalists, religious scholars, and dissidents. The armed opposition’s leadership must understand that continuing to violate international human rights and humanitarian standards would have major consequences for them;

11. We urge the armed opposition’s leadership, particularly the Taliban, to prevent the destruction of specially protected facilities in regions under their control, such as hydroelectric dams, historical and cultural sites, power generation sources, and hazardous energy sources. In addition to preventing the destruction and looting of public and private assets, the dominant groups in the region must also prohibit third-party looting and destruction of these resources;

12. According to AIHRC and international organizations, the Taliban’s use of roadside bombs and improvised explosive devices is a major cause of civilian casualties. Therefore, we urge the Taliban to stop this military tactics;

13. We urge the Afghan government to review its war policies and procedures, resolve the issues that result in civilian casualties, and hold the government’s military perpetrators accountable;

14. We call on responsible organs in the Afghan government to take planned, continuous, and systematic measures to improve the security of all citizens of the country, particularly ethnic-religious minorities, religious scholars, human rights defenders, media activists, and civil activists;

15. We urge the government and aid agencies to provide additional support to the injured, displaced people, and victims’ relatives. We further urge the Taliban to permit the presence and activity of aid organizations in areas under their control, so that the impoverished people and displaced persons affected by the fighting can be helped;

16. Afghanistan is a member of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Commission urges the International Criminal Court not to be swayed by political pressures from any authority in undertaking a serious and comprehensive investigation into the international crimes committed in Afghanistan. It also calls on the United Nations to send a UN fact-finding mission to investigate the recent horrific incidents against civilians in Afghanistan in a fair and non-political manner, as requested by the AIHRC. We also call on the Government of Afghanistan to welcome the presence of this delegation and to pave the way for a more thorough investigation.

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IEA’s foreign minister calls for ‘neutral’ foreign relations

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi has urged the international community to refrain from putting unnecessary pressure on the new Afghan government.

Speaking at an event on Thursday in Kabul, Mutaqi warned that if a country “pursues enmity with Afghanistan instead of friendship”, it will face the resistance of Afghans.

Muttaqi also called for the establishment of neutral political relations.

“Afghanistan is not the country it was 20 years ago, and the world should not try to put pressure on it.

“Afghanistan now has good relations with the rest of the world and the region and the pressure by some countries does not affect Afghanistan because it is not alone now,” said Muttaqi.

He also said strong economic ties between Afghanistan and the region would soon be established and that these would have a positive impact on the entire region.

At the same time, the foreign ministers of China and Pakistan, on the sidelines of the UN summit, called for the lifting of economic sanctions on the Afghan government.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the Pakistani foreign minister said that the world had no choice but to engage with the new Afghan government and recognize it.

“If they live up to those expectations, they would make it easier for themselves, they will get acceptability, which is required for recognition,” Shah Mahmood Hussein Qureshi told the AP.

“At the same time, the international community has to realise: What is the alternative? What are the options? This is the reality, and can they turn away from this reality?”

Qureshi said Pakistan “is in sync with the international community” in wanting to see a peaceful, stable Afghanistan with no space for terrorist elements to increase their foothold, and for the Islamic Emirate to ensure “that Afghan soil is never used again against any country”.

“But we are saying, be more realistic in your approach,” Qureshi said. “Try an innovative way of engaging with them. The way that they were being dealt with has not worked.”

But some other countries, including Germany, have opposed the presence of a representative of the Islamic Emirate at the UN summit. German foreign minister said the new Afghan officials needed to show in practice that they were complying with international law.

“Unfortunately, since August 15, life has become very difficult for everyone: financial situation, poverty, level of violence, level of poverty, level of fear, level of losses are increasing day by day. We are not the women of 2001, we are not the women of the 90s. If they [Islamic Emirate] really want to rule and lead in Afghanistan, they cannot rule without [the participation of] the 50 percent of Afghanistan, women,” said Zarifa Ghafari, a women’s rights activist.

This comes after the IEA asked to address world leaders at the United Nations in New York this week and nominated their Doha-based spokesman Suhail Shaheen as Afghanistan’s UN ambassador.

Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi made the request in a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday, Reuters reported

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World leaders call for peace, stability in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

On day 2 of the UN General Assembly, world leaders called for peace and stability in Afghanistan and voiced their concerns about attacks being launched from Afghanistan.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in his address to the general assembly that the international community needs to work with Afghanistan’s neighbors in order to prevent instability in the region.

“Regarding Afghanistan, we’ll have to start working with neighbouring countries in this new context to face the humanitarian crisis and prevent more instability in the region.

“We cannot lower our guard in the face of a terrorist menace (Daesh) that is real and that already has delivered a heavy blow in the midst of the evacuation operations.

“Afghanistan cannot turn into a shelter for terrorists. Spain is firmly committed to find maximum international security,” said Sanchez.

Leaders attending the 76th General Assembly, also called for achievements made over the past 20 years to be preserved.

“As the UN Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, it makes me sad that the progress seen during the past two decades in Afghanistan could be reverted so quickly,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia.

Indonesia, which has the highest Muslim population of any country in the world, called on the international community to support the call for rights for women and minorities and for stability in Afghanistan.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversification of vaccine production centers across the world.

“We must be stern in fighting intolerance, conflicts, terrorism and war. Peace in diversity and the protection of women’s and minority rights must be upheld. Concerns on the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence and the political crisis in Myanmar must be our common agenda,” said Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia.

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Acting foreign minister upbeat about future trade and diplomatic relations

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi says he is working to build strong economic ties with regional nations and countries around the world.

Speaking at a ceremony to introduce the new acting minister of commerce and industry, Nooruddin Aziz, Muttaqi said he is focused on developing the country’s economic sector.

Muttaqi also said that Afghanistan’s economic relations with regional countries would soon be regulated, which would have a positive impact on trade.

“We have selected a minister from the private sector for the ministry of commerce and industry so as to ensure the smooth running of the private sector and economic activities. We hope that the private sector will also play an active role in the country’s economy,” Muttaqi said at the ceremony.

Aziz meanwhile said he will also work to expand economic ties with all countries, both regionally and globally, in order to get Afghanistan to a point where it is financially self-sufficient.

“We strive to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient and economic-free country and to maintain relations with regional and neighboring countries; also the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and a number of other countries,” said Aziz.

Private sector representatives said they will support the new ministers and work with them to grow the country’s economy.

“Security is crucial for economic development and the fight against corruption. So far the (security) problem has been solved. We will expand our activities,” said Khan Jan Alkozai, Vice President of Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries.

“Unless we speed up our efforts to develop industry and domestic production in the country, economic growth may not be possible. We call on the Islamic Emirate to make efforts to develop domestic production,” said Sherbaz Kaminzada, head of the chamber of mines and industries.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have assured members of the private sector that the security of domestic investors will be maintained and that more opportunities for economic development will be provided.

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