South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

KABUL: An “unprecedented” number of civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan from July to September this year, the United Nations said in a new report released on Thursday, calling the violence “totally unacceptable”.

The report, which also charts violence throughout 2019 so far, underscores how “Afghans have been exposed to extreme levels of violence for many years” despite promises by all sides to “prevent and mitigate harm to civilians”.

“Civilian casualties are totally unacceptable,” said the UN’s special representative in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, adding they demonstrate the importance of talks leading to a ceasefire and a permanent political settlement. “The impact of Afghanistan’s conflict on civilians is appalling,” said Fiona Frazer, UNAMA’s Human Rights Chief.

The figures — 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injured from July 1 until Sept 30 — represent a 42 per cent increase over the same time period last year.

The UN laid most of the blame for the spike at the feet of “anti-government elements” such as the Taliban, who have been carrying out a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan now for more than 18 years.

July alone saw more casualties than in any other month on record since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began documenting the violence in 2009.

The first six months of 2019 had seen casualties drop slightly compared to previous years.

But the violence has surged so far in the third quarter that it yanked the overall total for the year back on par with the bloodiest since Nato withdrew its combat forces at the end of 2014.

The UN recorded 8,239 civilian casualties in total in the first nine months of 2019 — 2,563 killed and 5,676 injured — with the majority caused by suicide attacks or improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Some 41 per cent of them were women and children, UNAMA said.

The UN also documented an alarming jump in casualties by pro-government forces since the year began. Of the 8,239 total casualties, 1,149 of them were killed and 1,199 injured by pro-government forces, mostly in ground engagements and airstrikes — an increase of 26 per cent from the same period last year.

Published in Dawn, October 18th, 2019