AT Monitoring Desk
KABUL: Civilian casualties dramatically rose in Afghanistan between July and September — marking the highest number of casualties in a quarter since twhey first started being documented in 2009, according to a new report.
Citing the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the Special Inspector for Afghanistan Reconstruction said in a report Thursday that 1,174 deaths and 3,139 injuries were documented during this quarter. This marked a 42 percent increase in casualties when compared with 2018’s numbers from the same period.
In particular, more civilian casualties were reported in July than the UNAMA has ever documented in a single month.
Some of these casualties — 85 deaths and 373 injuries — were related to the Afghan government’s presidential election that was held on Sept. 28, the report found.
The primary culprit behind election-related attacks in 2019? The Taliban, who the report said was responsible for more than 80 percent of total civilian casualties stemming from 2019 election-related violence.
That is in line with trends over the course of the entire year, which found anti-government elements were responsible for 62 percent of civilian casualties and an uptick in Taliban violence.
“There was a notable increase in casualties attributed to the Taliban as opposed to other groups,” the report said.
The report credited 3,823 civilian casualties from Jan. 1 to Sept. 30 to the Taliban, representing 46 percent of all civilian casualties and a 31 percent increase from numbers reported last year during that period.
“However, comparing just this reporting period (July, August, and September) to the same period in 2018, civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban more than tripled,” the report said.
Employing improvised explosive devices in suicide and non-suicide attacks also substantially increased in 2018 when compared to numbers from 2018. Seventy-two percent more civilian casualties were due to IED attacks this quarter when measured against casualties from 2018, according to the UNAMA.
The report also cited statistics from the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission, which recorded similar findings. A total of 4,554 civilian casualties were reported between June 1 and Sept. 30, representing a 39 percent increase from last year’s numbers.
“Like UNAMA, RS said the increase in civilian casualties was due to a high number of terrorist and insurgent attacks prior to the presidential elections that included the use of improvised-explosive-devices,” the report said.
Peace negotiations between the U.S., Taliban, and Afghan government were dismantled in September after President Donald Trump called off a covert meeting with the Taliban and Afghan leaders at Camp David.
Trump, who at the time said peace discussions with the Taliban were “dead,” attributed the cancellation to the deaths of a U.S. soldier and 11 others in a Taliban car bomb attack.
Since then, U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with the Taliban earlier this month in Pakistan. He also visited Kabul to brief Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on that meeting and several others he has attended recently. Currently he is in Kabul to talks about stalled peace talks with Afghan leaders, and also about facilitation of releasing two American teachers
The Taliban has demanded the release of 80 prisoners, including Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid–two leaders of the Haqqani Network–for a swap with two US professors, sources close to the Taliban said.
The sources said a prisoner exchange would offer a restart to the US and Taliban peace talks that were halted by US President Donald Trump about two months ago.
The US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad is trying to secure the release of Kevin King, an American, and Timothy Weeks, an Australian, who were abducted in Kabul in 2016 while employed at the American University of Afghanistan.
The sources believe that there is some disagreement over the release of Haqqani leaders Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid. Both were captured in 2014 outside Afghanistan while traveling in the Persian Gulf.