KABUL (Reuters) – Nearly 1,800 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in the first three months of 2021 during fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents despite efforts to find peace, the United Nations said in a new findings on Wednesday.
Fighting has increased in several parts of Afghanistan in recent weeks while the peace process between both warring sides has made no progress despite international calls to reduce violence.
It comes a crucial time for Afghanistan as President Joe Biden plans to withdraw the remaining 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021, twenty years to the day after the al Qaeda attacks that triggered America’s longest war.
From January to the end of March, 573 civilians were killed and 1,210 injured, a 29 percent increase over the same period last year, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report.
“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021,” said Deborah Lyons, U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan.
The Taliban militants were responsible for 43.5 percent of civilian casualties while government troops caused 25 percent, UNAMA said.
Most of the remainder came in crossfire, or were caused by Islamic State militants or “undetermined” anti-government or pro-government elements, it said.
The report documented 37 percent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and a 23 percent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020, it said.
According to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s annual report last year, there were 8,500 civilian casualties in 2020, including 2,958 deaths.
(Reporting by Orooj Hakimi, Writing by Hamid Shalizi, Editing by Steve Orlofsky)