Kabul
Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Reduction In Civilian Casualties In 2020

The United Nations report credits the decrease to the reduction of operations by international forces.

Kabul

Afghanistan saw a 13% drop in the number of civilians killed and wounded in violence across the country in the first six months of 2020, compared with the same period last year, according to a United Nations report.

Figures show 1,282 people were killed and 2,176 were wounded in the country during the first six months of this year.  

There were 17 attacks which were carried out by so-called Islamic State (IS) which caused civilian casualties, according to the report.

Overall, there has been a 13% decrease in deaths and a reduction from 97 attacks in the same period last year.

The report credits the drop in casualties in part to the reduction of operations by international forces, which it says now only act when called upon and in support of Afghan forces, and also to a decrease in the number of attacks by IS.

However, it says civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and the Afghan government forces continues to be high.

US flag flying over mission support site in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan
According to the Pentagon, bases which had been used by the US have now been transferred to Afghan forces (Picture: US Air Force).

Civilian casualties from air strikes carried out by Afghan forces alone tripled in the first six months of 2020, compared with the period in 2019.

Afghan forces were responsible for 23% of the civilian casualties, while the Taliban were responsible for 43%, the report says.

"At a time when the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues, inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day," said Deborah Lyons, head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.

"I urge the parties to pause, to reflect on the chilling incidents and the harm that they are causing to the Afghan people as documented in this report, and to take decisive action to stop the carnage and get to the negotiating table."

Women and children are disproportionately affected by the direct and indirect impacts of the armed conflict, making up more than 40% of the total civilian casualties, meaning both the killed and the wounded, the report says.

It also noted children in Afghanistan are especially vulnerable to abuse by both sides, including being recruited for combat.

Last week, a government air strike killed at least 14 people in western Herat province, many of them women and children.

Hundreds of people had gathered in the province’s Adraskan district to welcome home a former Taliban fighter freed from jail, when aircraft reportedly pounded the gathering.

The governments said the strike was being investigated.

Troops in Afghanistan in 2018 pic used on 050620 CREDIT BFBS shot by SN.jpg
The report credits the decrease to the reduction of operations by international forces.

The report has been published during the same month the United States confirmed thousands of military personnel had withdrawn from Afghanistan, honouring a peace agreement with the Taliban.

The departure of American troops from the country, which was first pledged last year, means the US has reduced its presence in Afghanistan to 8,600 personnel, withdrawing from five bases.

An initial withdrawal of hundreds of US military service members began in March.

The US-Taliban peace deal signed at the end of February, has been regarded as a key milestone in ending more than 18 years of war - touted as the best hope for peace in Afghanistan.

The conflict once saw 100,000 troops on the ground.

There are currently nearly 1,000 British Army troops based in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission in the country. 

The UK ended its combat role in Afghanistan in 2014 but personnel remain deployed to the country in non-combat roles.

While US and NATO forces have already reduced their troop strength, the second phase of the deal, which calls for negotiations between the Taliban and the Kabul government, has been delayed.

Much of the delay has been as a result of Kabul's reluctance to free some Taliban prisoners identified for release as part of the agreement.

Cover image: Crown Copyright.