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More Than 1,200 Civilians Killed In Afghanistan In First Half Of 2020, UN Reports

An Afghan man removes broken glass after a suicide bomb blast in Kabul in April.
An Afghan man removes broken glass after a suicide bomb blast in Kabul in April.

There were 1,282 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first half of the year, while another 2,176 people were wounded over the same period, the UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report published on July 27.

Those numbers include 340 children killed and another 727 wounded, the report said.

“At a time when the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues, inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.

Taliban and Islamic State (IS) militants were behind most of the casualties, accounting for 58 percent of the victims, the report said, adding that pro-government forces were responsible for 23 percent of the civilians killed or wounded.

The numbers represent a 13 percent decrease in the numbers of deaths and injuries reported during the same time period in 2019. The report cites weaker engagement by international armed forces and the Islamic State extremist group as the main reason for the decline.

However, Afghan government security forces and the Taliban were responsible for an almost unchanged number of casualties compared to the previous year, while civilian losses caused by Afghan Army air strikes tripled compared to the first half of 2019.

The report came as efforts to achieve peace in Afghanistan remain in limbo due to disagreements about a prisoner release program between Kabul and the Taliban while violence is on the rise.

The Afghan National Security Council said on July 25 that in the past week the Taliban had killed 46 civilians and wounded 93 others.

The United States and the Taliban struck an agreement in February intended to pave the way for intra-Afghan peace talks between the militants and the U.S.-backed government in Kabul.

Key preconditions for intra-Afghan talks are prisoner exchanges and a reduction of violence.

The Taliban has said it is prepared to hold peace talks with the Afghan government next month after the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, provided the prisoner swap has been completed.

However, on July 26, the Taliban accused Afghan security forces of rearresting insurgents who had been released, warning that Kabul would "bear responsibility for the consequences."

Meanwhile, the United States has dispatched its special envoy for Afghanistan on a five-nation tour aimed at advancing the fragile peace process.

The U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, is visiting Doha, Islamabad, Kabul, Oslo, and Sofia, the State Department said in a July 25 statement.

In Doha and Kabul, Khalilzad will “press for resolution of the remaining issues ahead of intra-Afghan negotiations, specifically final prisoner exchanges and reduced violence.”

The Qatari capital has been the location of repeated rounds of U.S. talks with the Taliban.

Taliban militants control about half of Afghanistan's territory and they have continued to carry out deadly attacks since the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed.

“Although significant progress has been made on prisoner exchanges, the issue requires additional effort to fully resolve,” the State Department said.

Khalilzad will also travel to Pakistan to seek its support in advancing intra-Afghan negotiations.

In Oslo and Sofia, the diplomat will update NATO allies on the Afghan peace process.

With reporting by dpa, Reuters, AP, and AFP
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