Violence against civilians surges in Afghanistan after peace talks: UN report
By Abdul Qadir Sediqi and Charlotte Greenfield
KABUL (Reuters) – Civilian casualties in Afghanistan escalated sharply after peace talks began last year, the United Nations said in a report released on Tuesday, calling for a ceasefire as negotiators met for the first time after weeks of inaction.
U.S.-brokered peace talks began in September but progress has since slowed and violence has risen with uncertainty over whether international forces will pull out troops by May as originally planned.
Civilian casualties were 8,820 in 2020, according to the United Nations’ mission to Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) annual report. That was 15% lower than the previous year, but the report’s authors noted with alarm a sharp uptick and historically high civilian casualties in the final three months of 2020, when peace talks began.
Last year “could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished,” said Deborah Lyons, head of UNAMA, reiterating calls for a ceasefire which has been repeatedly rejected by the Taliban. “Parties refusing to consider a ceasefire must recognise the devastating consequences.”
The Taliban on Tuesday issued a response critical of the report, saying “the concerns, precise information and accurate details that were shared by us have not been taken into account.”
The report said that for the first time since records began, deaths and injuries had escalated in the final three months of the year from the previous three months. Casualties for the fourth quarter were up 45% compared with the same period in 2019.
The majority of were ascribed to non-government actors, predominately the insurgent Taliban, and more than one-fifth were attributed to government forces.
A government spokesman did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Both sides said on Twitter their chief negotiators met in Doha, the venue for talks, on Monday evening, adding that teams would continue work on an agenda.
After a monthlong break over the new year period, negotiators returned to Doha briefly before many senior members of the Taliban left to hold meetings in Russia and Iran. Mujahid said they would hold further meetings soon.
Zabihullah said that the lull was only a break and the Taliban were committed to talks, with further meetings expected in coming days.
(Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield in Islamabad and Abdul Qadir Sediqi in Kabul; Additional reporting by Orooj Hakimi in Kabul. Editing by Gerry Doyle)
More Top Stories
Join the RSBN team LIVE from CPAC 2021 in Orlando, FL for full coverage of all the action on the ground- see all of the …read more
Former President Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) have won the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll, which was conducted by the …read more
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is facing backlash after he posted a video on TikTok telling people how to get vaccinated against the coronavirus while standing …read more
California Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Sunday that newly declassified FBI documents show that a confidential source for …read more
CPAC attendees came out in support of President Trump ahead of Sunday’s highly-anticipated speech.read more
“All these authorities are pushing an agenda – it’s the same agenda, to decarbonize, deindustrialize, and disempower the Western world”read more