Civilian casualties in Afghanistan saw a 29% increase in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period last year, a UN report said on Wednesday.
In the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2021 First Quarter Report, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 1,783 civilian casualties – 573 killed and 1,210 injured.
“The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021”, Lyons added.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has ordered the full withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan by no later than Sept. 11, a senior US administration official said on Tuesday.
“This is not conditions-based. The president has judged that a conditions-based approach, which has been the approach of the past two decades, is a recipe for staying in Afghanistan forever,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“He [Biden] has reached the conclusion that the United States will complete its drawdown, will remove its forces from Afghanistan before Sept. 11,” the official said ahead of Biden’s formal announcement expected on Wednesday.
Waheed Umer, the director general at the Office of Public and Strategic Affairs of the Afghan government, has said the US troop withdrawal has been discussed between the US and Afghan governments repeatedly in the past.
“President Biden is expected to talk to President [Ashraf] Ghani in the near future to officially share details of the new withdrawal plan. Till then, we will not comment on the details”, Umer said on Twitter.
On Tuesday, Turkey announced a keenly awaited international conference on the Afghan peace process will be held in Istanbul on April 24-May 4.
The high level and inclusive conference between representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban is being co-convened by Turkey, Qatar, and the UN, according to a joint statement issued by the Turkish Foreign Ministry.