UN: Civilian deaths by Taliban and Afghan forces on the rise
The United Nations called Tuesday for an immediate reduction of violence in Afghanistan, saying civilian deaths by both Taliban and Afghanistan's own security forces is on the increase.
Kabul: The United Nations called Tuesday for an immediate reduction of violence in Afghanistan, saying civilian deaths by both Taliban and Afghanistan's own security forces is on the increase.
In a statement, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, also expressed concern about the stepped-up attacks and brutality of assaults claimed by the Islamic State group.
A horrific attack last week at a maternity hospital in the capital has not been claimed by any group, but the United States said it bears all the hallmarks of Afghanistan's IS affiliate targeting the country's minority Shiites in a neighborhood of Kabul they have repeatedly attacked in the past.
The Taliban denied involvement in the maternity hospital attack, which killed 24 people, including two infants and several new mothers, calling it vile."
The U.N. report blamed the Taliban for killing 208 civilians in April, while 172 civilians were killed in the month by the Afghan National Security and Defense Force.
Parties have committed to finding a peaceful solution and should protect the lives of all Afghans and not jeopardize people's hope for an end to the war, said Deborah Lyons, the UNAMA head and the U.N. Secretary- General's Special Representative to Afghanistan.
Intra-Afghan peace negotiations need to start as soon as possible," she said.
The UN's call for an end to violence comes as Washington's special peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad, began another round of talks with the Taliban to press them to start talking to the newly reconciled Afghan political leadership in Kabul and implement an immediate reduction in violence, said a U.S. state department statement.
Khalilzad, who is the architect of a U.S.-Taliban peace deal signed in February, has been trying to salvage the agreement and jump-start intra-Afghan negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan's political leadership.
A power-sharing agreement on Sunday between President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullaah brought to an end months of wrangling over who won a deeply controversial presidential election last year. The agreement raised expectations that the next, critical round of the U.S.-Taliban peace deal, which calls for negotiations between the Taliban and Afghanistan's political leaders, can begin.
The Taliban have said a permanent cease-fire would be one of the first items on the agenda but have been critical of repeated delays in the deals promised prisoner release, which is to be completed before talks can begin.
In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will meet with Taliban representatives to discuss implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement and press for steps necessary to commence intra-Afghan negotiations, including a significant reduction of violence, said the U.S. State Department statement.
Khalilzad will also visit the Afghan capital, his first visit to Kabul since Secretary of State Mike Pompeo failed to get the squabbling leaders to reach an agreement during a surprise visit in March. A frustrated Pompeo cut 1 billion in U.S. aid to Afghanistan.
Following the agreement Sunday, Pompeo called Ghani and bemoaned the time lost to their bickering.
The United States remains committed to supporting the desire of the Afghan people and the international community for a political settlement that ends the 40-year conflict and ensures Afghanistan never again serves as a platform for international terrorism, the State Department statement said.
The agreement provides for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops, but only if the Taliban live up to their end to battle terrorist groups, like the Islamic State affiliate against whom they have waged bitter battles.
The increasingly brutal attacks by the IS would seem to have given urgency to the U.S. efforts to get the Taliban into a coordinated battle against IS.