Last year, the Taliban negotiated a peace deal with then US President Donald Trump. But the violence in Afghanistan has not stopped. Since the beginning of its records, the UN Mission (Unama) has not registered a bloodier November for civilians in the country than that of 2020, according to an annual report that has now been published.
»2020 could have been the year of peace in Afghanistan. Instead, thousands of Afghan civilians died in the conflict, ”said Deborah Lyons, UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
Overall, the number of civilian victims fell in 2020 compared to the previous year. Last year Unama registered 3,035 civilians killed and 5,785 wounded in the conflict in Afghanistan. This corresponds to a decrease of 15 percent compared to 2019. For the first time since 2013, the number of civilian victims fell below 10,000. At the same time, the UN mission recorded an increase in violence for the first time in the fourth quarter compared to the third. In previous years, the conflicting parties had reduced their attacks during the cold season.
Taliban continue to reject ceasefire
In Afghanistan, the militant Islamist Taliban are fighting the West-backed government in Kabul. In addition, the terrorist militia “Islamic State” (IS) has been present in the Central Asian country for several years. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001. A US-led military intervention after the September 11, 2001 al-Qaida attacks put an end to their rule. Today they control large parts of the country again.
At the beginning of 2020, the USA signed an agreement with the Taliban that provides for the gradual withdrawal of all international armed forces. In return, the militant group committed to peace talks with the Afghan government. Critics accuse the Taliban of violating other obligations in the agreement. The NATO states therefore want to continue their deployment in Afghanistan until further notice.
According to the UN mission, the bloodiest month of 2020 was October – just a few weeks after the start of the Afghan peace talks in Qatar’s capital Doha. Talks between negotiators from the republic and the Taliban are making slow progress. Experts assume that the Islamists are using their military strength to exert pressure at the negotiating table. The Taliban continue to reject a ceasefire called for by the government.
UN complains about targeted killing of human rights activists and journalists
The UN mission explains the decline in the number of civilian casualties in the past year, among other things, with fewer large attacks. Since their agreement with the United States in early 2020, the Taliban had largely avoided major bomb attacks in the metropolitan areas. Critics note a change in their strategy and accuse the Taliban of murdering their opponents with targeted killings. Everywhere in the country there is hopelessness, fear of a new civil war is growing. Many young people think about emigrating.
Unama also complains about the targeted killings of journalists and human rights activists, whose masterminds and perpetrators often remain hidden. According to the report, anti-government groups are responsible for 62 percent of civilian casualties, and the Afghan army for 22 percent. International forces only caused one percent of civilians killed or wounded. The rest were victims of crossfire or unknown perpetrators.
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