Raja Furqan Ahmed
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is a political UN mission established on 28 March 2002 at the special request of the Government of Afghanistan to assist for sustainable peace and development. UNAMA’s mission is to support the people and institutions of Afghanistan in achieving peace and stability, in line with the rights and obligations enshrined in the Afghan constitution.
In their latest quarterly report, which was released on 27 October 2020 reveals that the overall civilian casualty figure for the first nine months of this year had dropped by about 30 per cent against the same period last year but that the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking. UNAMA documented 5,939 civilian casualties (2,117 killed and 3,822 injured) from 1 January to 30 September 2020.
The mission said that High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian. While the number of civilian casualties documented is the lowest in the first nine months of any year since 2012, the harm done to civilians’ remains inordinate and shocking.
The mission called on all parties to the conflict to end the violence. “The parties can and must do more to protect civilians from harm by urgently reviewing practices and strengthening mitigation measures, as well as working towards an end to the fighting – the only way to definitively stop conflict-related civilian casualties,” the mission stated.
The mission added that more than four out of every ten civilian casualties are children or women. Child casualties amounted to 31 per cent of all civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2020, and women casualties 13 per cent. UNAMA found that Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) remain responsible for the majority of civilian casualties (58 per cent).
Pressure-plate IEDs, used by the Taliban, function in Afghanistan as anti-personnel landmines continued to cause serious harm to civilians. The report stated that of the civilians killed by such devices, 31 per cent were children and 12 per cent were women.
The Taliban and the Afghan national security forces caused the most civilian casualties, responsible for more than one-third of all civilian casualties. This was followed by suicide and non-suicide IEDs (29 per cent), targeted killings (16 per cent) and airstrikes (eight per cent). Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) were responsible for more than a quarter of all civilian casualties – 28 per cent and Afghan national security forces (ANSF) were responsible for 23 per cent of all civilian casualties; a similar number was recorded in the first nine months of 2019. Almost half of the Afghan civilian casualties by PGFs are caused by indirect fire, such as howitzers, mortars, rockets and grenades, often used in civilian-populated areas. “Women and children comprise almost three out of four civilian casualties from the use of these weapons by PGFs, as the projectiles often land near, or on, civilian homes,” the report clarifies.
The mission said the period from 1 October is outside the scope of UNAMA’s latest quarterly report, but “raises its increasing concern over the intensification of the fighting in Helmand, as well as several indiscriminate attacks in Nangarhar, Laghman and Ghor along with an airstrike in Takhar and a suicide attack targeting civilians in Kabul that taken together killed and injured more than 400 civilians.”
The UN Special Mission also called on the Taliban to meet its commitments and cease using these illegal weapons that wreak such harm on Afghan civilians.
(The writer is a student of International Relations and Freelance journalist currently based in Islamabad, Pakistan. He can be reached at [email protected])