With fighting raging in Afghanistan, a new UN report found that civilian casualties have skyrocketed in 2021, up 47 percent from the year before.
The UN’s Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 5,183 civilian casualties between January and June, of which 1,659 were deaths. The months of May and June were especially brutal. The report found nearly 2,400 Afghan civilians were injured or killed in those two months alone.
“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 UNAMA said.
The US started pulling troops out of Afghanistan in the beginning of May, so naturally, Western media outlets are hinting that the withdrawal is responsible for the civilian deaths. The reality is, a full-blown war between the US-backed Afghan government and the Taliban was almost inevitable, whether the US left this year or 10 years from now.
There is still hope that the Taliban and the Afghan government will eventually reach a diplomatic solution. But the Taliban will likely wait until after they know for sure the US is committed to a full withdrawal before entering serious negotiations.
The US-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha last year called for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan in exchange for the Taliban entering intra-Afghan talks. President Biden said the withdrawal will be complete by August 31st, but the US has plans with Turkey to leave troops behind to occupy the Kabul airport. US military leaders are also refusing to say if US airstrikes against the Taliban will stop after the withdrawal.
Biden already broke the Doha agreement by pushing back the original May 1st withdrawal deadline. While the chances of a diplomatic breakthrough are small, by extending the deadline, Biden also delayed a potential peace deal. And if the US keeps a small troop presence behind and continues bombing the Taliban, it would accomplish little but fuel more violence.