Afghanistan passed a grim milestone with more than 100,000 civilians have been killed or hurt in the last 10 years since the international body began documenting casualties in a war that has raged for 18 years, according to a United Nations report on Saturday.
The report was released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan comes as a seven-day “reduction of violence” agreement between the US and Taliban takes effect, paving the way for a February 29 signing of a peace deal Washington hopes will end its longest war, bring home US troops and start warring Afghans negotiating the future of their country.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan said, “Almost no civilians in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence”.
“It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are underway”, Yamamoto further added.
According to the UN report, 3,493 civilians were killed last year and 6,989 were injured. While fewer civilians were hurt or killed by Islamic State fighters, more civilians became casualties at the hands of the Taliban and Afghan security forces and their American allies.
The report said there was a 21% increase in civilian casualties by the Taliban and an 18% rise in casualties blamed on Afghan security forces and their US allies who dropped more bombs last year than in any year since 2013.
On Wednesday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said that the UN stands ready to work with the future administration in the South Asian country after Ashraf Ghani secured a second term as President.
The seven-day reduction in violence began at midnight Friday. If it holds it will be followed by the signing of a long-sought peace deal between the United States and the Taliban in the Middle Eastern state of Qatar where the Taliban maintain a political office.
US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who has spent the past 18 months negotiating the deal with the Taliban after his appointment in September 2018 by the White House, will sign the deal on the behalf of Washington.
In 2018, the Security Council had concluded a secret fact-finding mission to Afghanistan in a show of support for the war-torn nation where it denounced the activities of terrorists there, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had announced.
UNAMA had said that the Council members “expressed concerns about the security environment in Afghanistan, including the presence of Al Qaeda, Taliban and ISIL (Islamic State)-Khorasan Province-affiliated fighters, as well as about the nexus of terrorism and organized crime.”
The negotiations among Afghans, which will also hammer out an eventual permanent cease-fire, are to begin around March 10. Both Germany and Norway have offered to host the negotiations but until now a venue has not been chosen.
(With inputs from agency)