Peace Talks Upend Afghanistan’s Least Violent Year Since 2012

Peace talks between Afghanistan’s government and the militant Taliban group is subverting the least violent year the war-ravaged nation had since 2012, according to the United Nations.

There’s been a spurt in civilian casualties since the militants began their first-ever talks with President Ashraf Ghani’s government on Sept. 12, Liam McDowall, the spokesman for the UN’s representative office in Kabul said by phone. Terrorist attacks dropped 30% in the first nine months of the year until the peace talks began, according to a statement by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

The negotiations “will need some time to help deliver peace,” Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan said in the statement. “But all parties can immediately prioritize discussions and take urgent, and frankly overdue, additional steps to stem the terrible harm to civilians.”

Even as talks between the Afghan administration and the Taliban in Doha have made little progress, militants have increased attacks on government forces, using it as a leverage for negotiations. Last week Taliban rebels killed 34 Afghan troops, while Islamic State said it slaughtered 24 students in a suicide bomb raid at a private educational institute in Kabul on Saturday.

“We see the unexpected height of the violence every day,” said Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul-based political analyst and a former military official. “There’s deadly battle currently underway in majority of the country inflicting heavy casualties to civilians.”

Government forces are fighting with the Taliban in 27 of the nation’s 34 provinces, Afghan interior ministry spokesman, Tariq Arian, told reporters in Kabul last week..

The U.S.-facilitated negotiations began in Doha after Washington and the Taliban signed an agreement in February that called for the departure of all foreign military forces by May 2021.

Terrorist attacks killed 2,117 civilians and wounded 3,822 in the first nine months of the year, the UNAMA said in the statement. That’s the least since 2012 when 2,154 civilians were killed and 3,655 injured.

Ground engagements mainly between the Taliban and Afghan forces caused most of the casualties, followed by suicide bombing, targeted killings and government air-strikes, according to the statement.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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