There was a rise in the number civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan following the start of peace negotiations in September, says a report released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office on Tuesday.
The report said the overall number of civilian casualties in 2020 of 8,820 (3,035 killed and 5,785 inured) fell below 10,000 for the first time since 2013 and was 15 per cent down on 2019.
The “Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Annual Report 2020” documented civilian casualties in the last quarter of the year.
The report said that for a seventh consecutive year, UNAMA documented more than 3,000 civilians killed in a single year, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.
According to the report, 43 percent casualties comprised on women and children – 13 percent women and 30 percent children.
October and November 2020 were the deadliest months since 2009 when UNAMA started documentation.
The report said that the “anti-government elements (AGEs) in 2020 caused the majority of civilian casualties (62 percent), totalling 5,459 casualties – 1,885 killed and 3,574 injured — with the Taliban responsible for most of these casualties (46 percent of the total) and Daesh responsible for 8 percent.”
Pro-government forces (PGF) caused a quarter of casualties, totalling 2,231 (841 killed and 1,390 injured), a decrease of 24 percent from 2019, with the Afghan national security forces causing most of these (22 percent).
The overall reduction in civilian casualties in 2020 was due to factors such as fewer suicide attacks, especially in urban areas, and a stark drop in casualties attributed to international military forces.
While there was an increase in the number of civilian casualties that were unclaimed by any party and for which UNAMA could not attribute responsibility, the report finds that the Taliban caused 19 percent fewer civilian casualties than in 2019 and the Daesh 45 percent fewer.
Strikingly, international military forces in 2020 were responsible for their lowest recorded number of civilian casualties since UNAMA began documentation in 2009.
In 2020, this figure was 120 civilian casualties, down from 786 in 2019, a decrease of 85 percent.
Despite peace negotiations, which began between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban in Qatar on September 12, violence could not be curtailed. “Instead, there was an escalation of violence with disturbing trends and consequences,” the report said.
“The year 2020 could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished due to the conflict,” said Deborah Lyons, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan in the report.