At least 3,812 civilians have been killed or wounded in Afghanistan’s war in the first half of 2019, the United Nations said, noting a big increase in the number of casualties caused by government and NATO-led troops.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) called the toll “shocking and unacceptable” on Tuesday, and urged parties to Afghanistan’s 18-year war to heed a demand from Afghan delegates at a recent peace conference in Doha, the capital city of Qatar, to reduce civilian casualties to zero
The UNAMA report said 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 wounded in the six months to June 30.
In that period, the Taliban and other armed groups caused the majority of civilian casualties, but Afghan and NATO-led forces were responsible for more civilian killings, it said.
The pro-government forces killed 717 civilians and wounded 680, representing a 31 percent increase from the corresponding period in 2018.
Taliban and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISILor ISIS) fighters killed 531 Afghans and wounded 1,437.
UNAMA said it also documented 985 civilian casualties from armed group attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, including government officials, tribal elders, aid workers, and religious scholars.
Meanwhile, at least 144 women and 327 children were killed and more than 1,000 wounded in attacks across the country.
“Everyone heard the message loud and clear from Afghan delegates in the Doha talks – ‘reduce civilian casualties to zero!’,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of UNAMA. “We urge all parties to heed this imperative, to answer the call of Afghans for immediate steps to be taken to reduce the terrible harm being inflicted.”
Latest UN update: Anti-Govt elements (Taliban, ISKP & other) responsible for 52% civilian casualties in first half 2019. Pro-Govt forces (Afghan security, international military & others) responsible for 37%. #ZeroCivilianCasualtiesNow #Afghanistan Read: https://t.co/OWoVckeDbT pic.twitter.com/pqiXmmJhiS
— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) July 30, 2019
Colonel Sonny Leggett, a spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, rejected the methods and findings used by UNAMA, saying the collection of evidence by US forces was “more thorough, evidentiary and accurate”.
Leggett, however, did not give any United States military figures for civilian casualties but said US forces worked closely with Afghan security forces to prevent them.
“We follow the highest standards of accuracy and accountability and always work to avoid harm to civilian non-combatants,” Leggett said.
The US formally ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 but still provides extensive air and other support to local forces battling both groups.
The US is trying to negotiate a deal under which foreign forces would pull out in return for security guarantees by the Taliban, including a pledge that the country will not become a safe haven for terror groups.
The Taliban controls or contests half the country, more than at any time since being overthrown by US-led Afghan forces in late 2001, but they have rejected calls for a ceasefire until all foreign forces leave Afghanistan.
The Afghan government and the Taliban were not immediately available to comment on the UN report.