An Afghan security force member inspects the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 29 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD ISMAIL
An Afghan security force member inspects the site of an attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, on July 29 2019. Picture: REUTERS/MOHAMMAD ISMAIL

Kabul — Civilians are being killed and wounded at a “shocking and unacceptable” level in Afghanistan's war despite a push to end the 18-year-old conflict, the UN says.

The latest information from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan shows an almost 30% drop in casualties for the first half of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, which was a record, but nonetheless, 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 injured.

While it welcomed the drop, it “continues to regard the level of harm done to civilians as shocking and unacceptable”, the UN mission said in a statement.

The agency “acknowledges that parties have announced efforts to reduce civilian casualties, but they are insufficient”.

It said that for the second quarter running, US and pro-government forces caused more civilian deaths than the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

During the first half of 2019 pro-government forces, including the US, killed 717 civilians, an increase of 31% from a year earlier. Most of the deaths came from US and Afghan air strikes, often in support of national forces on the ground.

Afghanistan’s bloody toll is climbing amid a months-long, US-led push to forge a peace deal with the Taliban that would see foreign forces quit the country in return for various security guarantees.

Earlier in July as part of that effort, Taliban officials met at an historic summit with Afghan representatives at an “intra-Afghan dialogue” in Doha.

Delegates issued a vague resolution that included a pledge to reduce civilian casualties to zero, but in the weeks since, ordinary Afghans have continued to be killed and wounded.

“Everyone heard the message loud and clear from Afghan delegates in the Doha talks — reduce civilian casualties to zero,” UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan head Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement.

“We urge all parties to heed this imperative, to answer the call of Afghans for immediate steps to be taken to reduce the terrible harm being inflicted.”

Child casualties represented almost one-third of the overall total of civilian casualties, with 327 deaths and 880 injured, the UN mission said.

A UN tally found 2018 was the deadliest on record, with at least 3,804 civilian deaths caused by the war, including 927 children.

AFP