27 Jul 2021

Afghanistan: Record civilian casualties in 2021, UN reports

7:10 am on 27 July 2021

Afghan civilians were killed or injured at record levels in the first half of this year as violence escalated, the UN says.

An Afghan militia fighter keeps a watch at an outpost against Taliban insurgents at Charkint district in Balkh Province on 11 July, 2021.

An Afghan militia fighter keeps watch at an outpost against Taliban insurgents in Balkh Province, 11 July, 2021.Fighting has escalated in recent months as foreign forces have withdrawn Photo: AFP / Farshad Usyan

A new report says Afghanistan recorded more than 1600 civilian deaths so far in 2021. That's a 47 percent rise compared with this time last year.

And the UN warns the number of deaths could rise still further.

Government forces have been fighting Taliban insurgents, who now control large parts of the country.

Most international forces have withdrawn after a mission lasting nearly 20 years.

Casualties in May and June rose to their highest for this period since the UN began recording the numbers in 2009.

According to the UN report, anti-government forces were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties. Pro-government forces accounted for 25 percent and 11 percent are blamed on crossfire. Of all casualties, 32 percent were children.

Peace talks between the two sides are moving slowly. Deborah Lyons, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan, urged both sides to "take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory".

"The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," she said in the UN release.

A US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the Taliban from power.

This year US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces from the country by September.

On Saturday top US commander Gen Kenneth McKenzie said their forces would continue carrying out air strikes in support of Afghan troops. He said a Taliban victory was not inevitable.

However, McKenzie did not say if the strikes would continue after the end of the US military mission on 31 August.

Afghan officials have imposed a month-long nightly curfew across most of the country to try to halt the Taliban advance.


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