‘Disturbing’ rise in violence in Afghanistan after US-Taliban deal: United Nations

A wounded man receives treatment at the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital after a deadly bomb blast in a wedding hall in Kabul, Afghanistan, August 18, 2019. (File photo by AFP)

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has expressed alarm at a surge of violence in the country as hundreds of civilians were killed or injured in the first quarter of the year despite a so-called peace deal signed between the United States and the Taliban militant group.

The UN agency said in a statement on Monday that the Afghans had enjoyed a period of relative calm before the accord was signed on February 29, but the conflict resumed right after the peace deal, which was agreed upon in the absence of representatives from the government in Kabul.

In a quarterly report accompanying the statement, UNAMA said more than 500 civilians had lost their lives in Afghanistan in the first three months of the year as violence raged even after the agreement between the United States and the Taliban on withdrawing foreign forces.

The report said fighting in the first three months caused a total of 1,293 civilian casualties, of which 760 were injuries and the rest deaths, including 152 children and 60 women.

    “The report tracks a disturbing increase in violence during March at a time when it was hoped that the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban would commence peace negotiations,” the UNAMA said.

Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, reiterated calls for a humanitarian ceasefire, which the militant group has rejected in recent days despite the advent of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

"To safeguard the lives of countless civilians in Afghanistan and to give the nation hope of a better future, it is imperative that violence is stopped,” she said.

Under the deal, the Taliban agreed to halt their attacks in return for Washington’s phased withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan and a prisoner exchange with the Afghan government.

The Afghan government, which was excluded from the talks and was thus not a signatory to the accord, is required to release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The militants are obliged to free 1,000 pro-government captives in return.
Washington is compelled under the deal to pull out American forces and foreign troops from Afghanistan by July next year, provided that the militants start talks with Kabul and adhere to other security guarantees.

About 14,000 US troops and approximately 17,000 troops from NATO allies and partner countries remain stationed in Afghanistan years after the invasion of the country that toppled a Taliban regime in 2001.