The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit a new record of 5,183 in the first half of the year, with a particularly sharp rise in May amid the withdrawal of foreign troops, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Monday.
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“UNAMA’s Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update 2021 documents 5,183 civilian casualties (1,659 killed and 3,254 injured), a 47 percent increase compared with the same period in 2020.
Of serious concern is the acute rise in the number of civilians killed and injured in the period from 1 May, with almost as many civilian casualties in the May-June period as recorded in the entire preceding four months,” the mission said in its fresh report.
Without a significant de-escalation in violence, “Afghanistan is on course for 2021 to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since UNAMA records began,” the assistance mission warned.
In April, UNAMA reported that the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan increased by almost 30% in the first half of the year, compared to the same period in 2020.
Earlier, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley said that half of the district centers in Afghanistan are under the control of the Taliban.
“As of today, more or less, I guess it’s about 212, 214, it’s in that range, the district centers are in Taliban control, it’s about half of the 419 that are out there,” Milley told reporters.
Milley said it appears the momentum is on the side of the Taliban since they have seized a significant amount of territory over the last six months, however, they have not taken over any of the 34 provincial capitals.
The general said the Taliban are trying to isolate the major population centers and are currently putting pressure on the outskirts of 17 of the 34 provincial capitals. Afghan security forces are giving up district centers in order to consolidate forces to protect the provincial capitals, he added.
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Milley said violence in Afghanistan is low at present because of the Eid al Adha holiday, but after it concludes on July 23, the United States will have a better idea if the levels of violence will increase or whether there is a possibility of a negotiated outcome or Taliban takeover.
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted that US forces are still on track to leave Afghanistan by the end of August, but a small, robust presence of American troops will remain in Kabul to provide security to the diplomatic facilities and the international airport.