Violence surged in Afghanistan after Taliban and Kabul government peace talks started: UN report

Violence surged in Afghanistan after Taliban and Kabul government peace talks started: UN report
2 min read
23 February, 2021
A new UN report has documented a rise in violence after the start of peace talks, as calls for a ceasefire are ignored.
8,820 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in 2020. [Getty]

Since the start of peace talks between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban, violence and civilian casualties have surged, according to a new United Nations report released Tuesday. 

The UN repeated calls for a ceasefire, as negotiators from the two sides met for the first time in weeks but said the talks coincided with a spike in violence. 

"This important report has one overriding objective: Providing the parties responsible with the facts and recommendations, so they take immediate and concert steps to protect civilians," said UNAMA's head, Deborah Lyons.

Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government began in September, with help from the US, but ground to a halt due to question marks over the planned withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in May, as was originally planned. 

These doubts have gone hand in hand with an uptick in violence

According to the United Nations' mission to Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) annual report, 8,820 civilians were killed or injured in 2020, Reuters reported.

While this represents a fall of 15 percent on the previous year, the report's authors noted a sharp rise in civilian casualties at the end of 2020, which correlated with the start of peace talks. 

The report highlighted how the first three months of 2020 saw 1,387 Afghan casualties, while violence escalated in the final months of the year with 2,792 Afghan civilians killed or injured - a surge not seen since records began.

Lyons repeated calls for a ceasefire, which the Taliban have consistently rejected.

"Ultimately, the best way to protect civilians is to establish a humanitarian ceasefire. Parties refusing to consider a ceasefire must recognise the devastating consequences," said Lyons.

She added that 2020 "could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians perished".

The Taliban slammed the report, telling Reuters that "the concerns, precise information and accurate details that were shared by us have not been taken into account".

Non-government actors were responsible for the majority of the civilian casualties, with the Taliban responsible for 45 percent of all recorded civilian casualties. 

Read more: How spoilers are trying to derail Afghanistan's peace process

The Afghan national security forces were responsible for 22 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries. 

The two sides met in Doha on Monday before Taliban negotiators then left for meetings in Iran and Russia.

The Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said that further talks would be held soon, and that they remained committed to process. 

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