Civilian deaths hit record high in Afghanistan: UN
July 15, 2018
A United Nations report indicates the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan has increased, with militant attacks and suicide bombings their leading cause. Peace efforts in the war-torn country remain unsuccessful.
Civilian deaths in Afghanistan rose 1 percent to 1,692 in the first half of 2018, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its latest report released Sunday.
Although overall civilian casualties fell 3 percent, fatalities recorded in the first six months of 2018 were the highest half-yearly death toll since UNAMA started its systematic documentation of civilian deaths in 2009.
UNAMA also reported that 3,430 Afghans were wounded in the January-June period, a 5 percent drop from previous years.
In February, the UN said more than 10,000 civilians were killed or wounded in the ongoing war in Afghanistan in 2017, with militant bombings responsible for inflicting a major proportion of casualties.
Just hours after the latest UN report was published, at least 10 people were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of a government ministry building in capital, Kabul.
In June, Taliban militants temporarily accepted a government truce offer, raising hopes for peace in the war-ravaged country. However, the jihadists refused to extend it beyond the three-day Muslim festival of Eid.
"The brief ceasefire demonstrated that the fighting can be stopped and that Afghan civilians no longer need to bear the brunt of the war," Tadamichi Yamamoto, a senior UN official in Afghanistan, said in a statement on Sunday.
"We urge all parties to seize all opportunities to find a peaceful settlement — this is the best way that they can protect all civilians," he added.
2017 was the fourth consecutive year in which the UN recorded more than 10,000 civilian causalities. Nearly two-thirds of all casualties were caused by anti-government elements with the Taliban and the "Islamic State" (IS) inflicting maximum damage.
Pro-government forces caused a fifth of the casualties, with 16 percent attributed to Afghan forces and 2 percent to international forces.
Afghanistan has been mired in conflict since 2001, when the US launched an offensive against Taliban militants in response to the 9/11 attacks on America. US and NATO forces concluded their combat mission in 2014 and shifted to a training role. But the conflict rages on with a resurgent Taliban stepping up attacks and the emergence of an IS affiliate.
The worst attack since the UN mission began recording civilian casualties in 2009 occurred in Kabul on May 31, when a suicide attacker detonated a truck bomb, killing 92 civilians and injuring 491.
President Ashraf Ghani's government and the US have sought dialogue with the Taliban. Earlier this year, Ghani offered a political role for the Taliban, which the militant group rejected.
Kabul and Washington also accuse Islamabad of using some Islamist groups as proxies. The Trump administration has cut Pakistan's military aid, hoping the Islamic country will take decisive action against terrorists operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.