The current year, 2021, is emerging as a candidate to become "the bloodiest" since there are records in Afghanistan, the United Nations warned on Monday.
The UN bases this claim on data from the latest semi-annual report of its Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has revealed that, in May and June alone, at least 2,400 Afghan civilians were killed or injured by the escalation of fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.
This figure is the highest in those two months since the casualty count began in 2009.
In the first six months of 2021, UNAMA has documented 5,183 civilian casualties, of which 1,659 were deaths, representing a 47% increase over the same period last year.
The data collected by the UN mission underscores the dire situation of Afghan civilians, caught in fighting that escalated in May and June, after US President Joe Biden announced that US troops would fully withdraw to no later than August 31, ending 20 years of foreign military presence in the country.
The last US troops will leave Afghanistan on August 31
Afghanistan remains at the mercy of the Taliban
"The large increase in the number of civilians killed and injured since May 1 is very worrying, with almost as many victims in May and June as those registered in the previous four months," UNAMA said in a statement. Another “especially serious” fact, the text of the UN mission emphasizes, is that about half of the victims registered in the first six months of the year are women and children.
The Taliban have carried out a vast offensive across large parts of the country in recent weeks and now control at least a third of the territory. In just over two months they have taken over at least 140 of the 421 districts into which Afghanistan is divided. A US intelligence report cited by
Wall Street Journal
estimated at the end of June that these insurgents could take control of the capital within six to 12 months of the departure of US troops, a calculation that now seems optimistic. the light of its rapid advance. In a demonstration of the helplessness of the Afghan government in the face of this offensive, Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi called on civilians at the end of June to prepare to take up arms.
In recent days, the United States has tried to stop the Taliban offensive by supporting the Afghan Army with air strikes.
On Sunday, General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command in the country, told reporters that the US "is prepared to continue with this increased level of support in the coming weeks if the Taliban continue their attacks." before stating that "the victory of the Taliban is not inevitable."
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Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, does not share this optimism.
Lyons declared Monday that "an unprecedented number of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the escalating violence is not stopped."
"I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take note of the grim and chilling trajectory of the conflict," said the United Nations representative, alluding to the figures contained in the organization's mission report.
General McKenzie's statements also contradict what was affirmed by the British chief of staff, Nick Carter, who recognized in early July that it was "plausible" that the Afghan state would collapse without an international military presence.
Since international troops took Kabul in 2001 and ousted the Taliban from power, many indicators of development have improved markedly in the country, although even the presence of international troops - the United States deployed up to 100,000 soldiers - managed to ward off violence. nor is poverty. The number of minors going to school went, for example, from 0.9 million in 2001 to 9.2 million in 2017, of which 39% were girls. In 2004 there were just over 51,200 women working in the Administration. In 2018 (the latest year for which data is available) the figure had risen to almost 87,000. All these achievements could now be reversed if the Taliban take power again, a threat that is becoming more and more real every day.
Meanwhile, peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, reactivated in September, remain stalled. The two delegations have met on several occasions in recent weeks in Doha, the capital of Qatar, without achieving any progress. The last of these encounters concluded with a mere declaration that both sides would try to avoid "civilian casualties."