UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (VOP TODAY NEWS) — At least 3,812 Afghan civilians were killed and wounded in the first half of 2019 during the war on militant groups, the United Nations said on Tuesday, including a significant increase in the number of victims killed by the government and foreign forces.
The figures came as talks between the Taliban and US officials to end the 18-year-old Afghan war reached an important stage, and US negotiators hope to conclude a peace deal before September 1.
But the war has raged despite diplomatic efforts, forcing civilians to live under the threat that militants might be targeted or trapped by fighting on the ground or mistakenly killed in air strikes by Afghan and foreign forces.
In its most recent report, UNAMA said that the main cause of most civilian casualties was ground attacks and clashes, followed by bombings and air strikes.
Taliban and Islamic state fighters killed 531 Afghans and wounded 1437 from January 1 to June 30, the report said. He said the two militant groups deliberately targeted 985 civilians, including government officials, tribal leaders, aid workers and religious scholars.
He also pointed out that pro-government forces killed 717 Afghans and injured 680 more from the beginning of the year to June 30, up 31 percent from the same period in 2018.
At least 144 women and 327 children have been killed and more than 1,000 wounded across the country.
The air strikes affected 519 civilians, including 150 children.
“The parties to the conflict may offer different interpretations of recent trends, each to justify their military tactics,” said Richard Bennett, head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“The fact remains that the sincere effort to avoid civilian casualties, not only by adhering to international humanitarian law but by reducing the intensity of fighting, is the only way to reduce the suffering of Afghan civilians.”
US forces and other NATO forces are in Afghanistan as part of a training, assistance and mentoring mission for Afghan forces and some US troops are carrying out anti-terrorism operations.
Colonel Sonny Licht, spokesman for US forces in Afghanistan, rejected the approach and findings of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and said US forces’ gathering of evidence was “more comprehensive, documented and accurate.”
But Geith did not disclose any figures for the US military about civilian casualties, saying only that US forces worked closely with Afghan security forces to avoid civilians.
“We follow the highest standards of accuracy and accountability and always work to avoid harming non-combatant civilians,” he said.
The United Nations is working to negotiate an agreement under which foreign forces will withdraw in return for Taliban security guarantees, including a pledge not to turn the country into a safe haven for terrorist groups.
The Taliban control or seek control of half of Afghanistan, more than it has occupied since US-led forces ousted it from power in 2001. But it rejects calls for a ceasefire before all foreign troops leave.
There was no comment on the report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) from the Afghan government or the Taliban.
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