Civilian casualties increased in Afghanistan following the start of intra-Afghan peace negotiations in September, the United Nations said on Tuesday.
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 percent down on 2019, UNAMA said in a report.
UNAMA documented an increase in the number of civilian casualties recorded in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter. In addition, this period marked a 45 percent increase in civilian casualties in comparison to the same three months in 2019, especially from the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and targeted killings.
In October, civilian casualties were the highest of any month in 2020, and in November UNAMA documented the highest number of civilian casualties of any November since it started systematic documentation in 2009.
Of the overall civilian casualties in 2020, 30 percent were children and 13 percent women.
Anti-government elements 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 Islamic State in the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) responsible for 8 percent.
Pro-governmenr forces caused a quarter of all civilian 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 of the total).
The overall reduction in civilian casualties in 2020 was due to factors such as fewer suicide attacks by AGEs causing large numbers of civilian casualties, especially in urban areas, and a stark drop in casualties attributed to international military forces.
“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. “This important report has the overriding objective of providing the parties responsible with the facts, and recommendations, so they take immediate and concrete steps to protect civilians. I urge them not to squander a single day in taking the urgent steps to avoid more suffering.”
“Ultimately, the best way to protect civilians is to establish a humanitarian ceasefire,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA. “Parties refusing to consider a ceasefire must recognize the devastating consequences of such a posture on the lives of Afghan civilians.”