A new report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reveals that the Taliban attacks increased when the intra-Afghan peace talks began in September of 2020. The report also indicates that the overall number of Afghans being killed in 2020 had decreased by 15% compared to 2019. In contrast to the past 12 years since UNAMA began recording the death toll in the country, the attacks intensified this past winter with the formal opening of the Afghan peace talks.
UNAMA has recorded a total of 8,820 civilian deaths and injuries, 1,146 of which are women and 2,619 are children in 2020. Based on the report, the Taliban and Islamic State, known as ISKP in Afghanistan, are responsible for 62% of the casualties. The remaining 25% are caused by the Afghan government, United States and NATO forces as well as other armed groups supporting the Afghan government. According to UNAMA’s 12 years of records, the total number of civilians killed and injured since 2009 now stands at 110,893, of which 35,559 were killed. This report does not include the military’s casualties resulting from insurgent attacks.
Although there is a 15% decrease in the overall killings of Afghans in 2020, there was a sharp increase in the targeted assassinations of civilians, including public servants, lawyers and judges, health workers, professors, leaders and members of civil society, journalists, NGO workers, human rights defenders, and anyone who spoke against violence and terror in the country. Civilian family members of the police and army were disproportionately targeted as well. Attackers used explosive devices, magnetic bombs attached to vehicles, and targeted killings. The report shows that there was a 69% increase in casualties resulting from explosive devices and a 62% increase in targeted killings compared to the same period in 2019. October and November were the deadliest months since UNAMA began recording in 2009.
The Taliban and other groups did not take responsibility for much of the attacks, but the UNAMA report suggests that the Taliban was responsible for two-thirds of the targeted attacks. The targeted attacks and the resulting casualties, while it might be perceived as small in number compared to 2019, the impact of these attacks were significant and created an “environment of fear and paralyzed many parts of society.”
The signing of the agreement between Afghanistan and the United States under President Trump’s leadership and the Taliban had given hopes to the Afghan people that it would lead to a quiet period and peace in the country. However, the agreement, as it was later revealed, only prevented the killing of Americans by the Taliban and vice versa. In the agreement, the Taliban side was not obligated to refrain from attacking the Afghan people and the Afghan forces, giving them the opportunity to use violence as the major leverage at hand during the intra-Afghan peace talks.
According to several reports, the Afghan people believe that negotiations with the Taliban are the only way to end the conflict in Afghanistan. However, they warn that the Taliban must know that they cannot return to power like they did prior to 2001. Afghans want to live under a republic in which they have equal rights, have the right to express themselves and hold authorities accountable – none of which the Taliban has shown to believe in these basic democratic values.
Source: UNAMA Feb. 2021