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    Afghan Civilian Casualties Soared After Peace Talks’ Start

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties rose sharply in Afghanistan after peace negotiations between the federal government and the Taliban started in September, whilst general deaths and accidents dropped throughout 2020 in contrast with the earlier 12 months, the United Nations reported Tuesday.

    In its annual report documenting civilian accidents and deaths, the United Nations’ mission in Afghanistan discovered that the escalation in civilian casualties started shortly after intra-Afghan negotiations opened on Sept. 12 in Doha, Qatar, growing by 45 p.c within the ultimate quarter of 2020 versus the identical time interval in 2019. The variety of civilian casualties in November was the best of any 12 months that month because the U.N. started systematically documenting Afghan casualties in 2009, the report mentioned.

    “2020 might have been the 12 months of peace in Afghanistan,” mentioned Deborah Lyons, the Particular Consultant of the U.N. secretary-general for Afghanistan. “As a substitute, hundreds of Afghan civilians perished because of the battle.”

    The report was launched as talks between the Afghan authorities and the Taliban stay stalled amid unrelenting violence, and a February 2020 settlement between america and the Taliban is below evaluate by the Biden administration.

    Following that settlement, made a 12 months in the past, the variety of civilian casualties for the 12 months was 15 p.c decrease than in 2019. The 8,820 civilian casualties documented in 2020 — 3,035 killed and 5,785 wounded — represented the primary time since 2013 that this determine dropped beneath 10,000, the report mentioned.

    The decline was attributed to a discount by the Taliban of mass casualty assaults in main cities and a decline within the variety of American airstrikes — each of which contributed to excessive civilian casualty charges in earlier years.

    However civilian casualties surged within the fourth quarter as preventing raged within the countryside between the Taliban and Afghan authorities forces. On the identical time, a targeted assassination campaign of shootings and bombings killed authorities employees and safety drive members, journalists, civil society advocates, and relations of combatants.

    Additionally focused had been non secular minorities, particularly Hazaras, most of whom are Shiite Muslim, and the nation’s small Sikh inhabitants.

    The two,792 civilian casualties (891 deaths and 1,901 accidents) recorded within the ultimate three months of 2020 represented the second-highest complete for this time interval since 2009.

    The Taliban have denied focused assaults towards anybody aside from authorities staff or supporters, however the Afghan authorities has blamed the militants for many such assaults.

    Final 12 months was the seventh consecutive 12 months that the U.N. has documented greater than 3,000 civilian deaths, “with Afghanistan remaining among the many deadliest locations on this planet to be a civilian,” the report mentioned.

    The report famous that many Afghans had hoped that violence would diminish after authorities and Taliban negotiators started formal talks, that are geared toward agreeing on a highway map for a future Afghan authorities and dealing towards a complete cease-fire.

    “As a substitute, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing tendencies and penalties,” the U.N. report mentioned.

    After the 2 sides agreed on procedures to information negotiations in early December, the talks were recessed till the primary week of January. However there have been no formal negotiations since then. As a substitute, there was heavy preventing, as either side await a call by the Biden administration on whether or not to honor or lengthen the May 1 deadline for withdrawing the remaining 2,500 American troops in Afghanistan, as stipulated within the February 2020 settlement between america and the Taliban.

    A part of the rise in fourth-quarter casualties was brought on by a rise in do-it-yourself magnetic bombs hooked up to autos and detonated by timer or distant management. The U.N. report additionally documented a continued excessive fee of civilian casualties brought on by roadside and automobile bombs detonated by the Taliban and different anti-government components.

    The U.N. report attributed 62 p.c of civilian casualties in 2020 to anti-government components, with the Taliban blamed for 45 p.c of the general complete and the Islamic State in Afghanistan chargeable for 8 p.c. One other 9 p.c was attributed to undetermined anti-government components. Although the Islamic State has been weakened, and is generally contained within the east, it has turned to guerrilla-style and mass-casualty assaults in city areas, because it makes an attempt to rebuild its ranks.

    Authorities forces had been chargeable for 22 p.c of civilian casualties for the 12 months, based on the report, with a further 2 p.c attributed to pro-government armed teams. The report attributed 13 p.c of civilian casualties to crossfire or undetermined causes.

    American-led worldwide forces had been chargeable for simply 1 p.c of civilian casualties in 2020, the report mentioned — 120 civilian deaths and accidents, a lower of 85 p.c from 2019, when 786 casualties had been attributed to worldwide forces. It was the bottom quantity in that class since 2009.

    After the February 2020 settlement, the Taliban shunned attacking American or different NATO forces. American commanders have typically restricted airstrikes to cases wherein authorities forces had been below excessive menace throughout Taliban assaults.

    However that has not stopped U.S. plane from dropping lots of of bombs with little accountability after the army stopped publicly reporting the strikes final 12 months.

    A full 12 months has handed in Afghanistan without an American combat death, the one such interval since america invaded in 2001. The 2 most up-to-date American fight deaths in Afghanistan occurred on Feb. 8, 2020, three weeks earlier than the settlement was signed between the Taliban and america.

    Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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