Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 80, 29 April 2020

The UN Report on Afghanistan: Civilian casualties in 2020 at the lowest since 2012 
Sukanya Bali

In the news

On 27 April the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released the first-quarter report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts. According to the report, since 2012, civilian casualties in the country has remained at the lowest with 1,293 fatalities. In 2020, the casualties in the country decreased by 29 per cent as compared to the first quarter in 2019.

Issues at large

After a weeklong ‘reduction in violence’ from 22 to 28 February this year, Afghanistan witnessed an increase in attacks on civilians in March. 

According to the report, there are four main actors responsible for civilian casualties. The anti-government actors account for 55 per cent of civilian casualties, of which 39 per cent were by Taliban and 13 per cent by ISIL-KP (causing 710 civilian casualties with 282 killed and 428 injured). Pro-government actors, including both Afghan national security forces and international military forces, are responsible for 32 per cent (412) of civilian casualties. The report highlighted that the highest number of attacks were conducted through ground engagement, followed by targeted killing and non-suicidal IEDs. It further bifurcates the nature of attacks based on the kind predominantly carried out by the pro and anti-government actors.

International troops are inclined to withdraw from Afghanistan, after the US-Taliban deal. The last civilian casualty by the international military forces was on 17 February in the region that continues to face attacks from the Taliban. The UNAMA documented that the pro-government attacks were more responsible for child casualties in this quarter.

The incidents on healthcare workers have seen a rise in the first quarter. Presently Afghanistan has 1,828 cases, and the number of attacks on health workers had shut down many clinics. The Taliban indicated in a statement, to work with international organisations in combatting the virus, As per the report there have been 18 incidents impacting health care workers, out of which 17 were claimed by the Taliban. Two of these attacks were accounted for after the Taliban’s statement.

In perspective

First, as per the report, in the first quarter, there is a decline in casualties as compared to 2019. This has to become a trend in the next quarters to put an end to the long war in the country.

Second, the prisoner release has been one of the priorities for the Taliban. As long as the government and Taliban fail to come to terms and begin the intra-Afghan talks, the dangers to civilian casualties are likely to continue. 

Sukanya Bali is a Research Associate at the National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS).

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