Civilians pay a heavy price of Afghan war

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, August 5, 2019
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An Afghan security force member stands at the site of an attack in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, July 29, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

The latest data on civilian deaths in Afghanistan show the dark side of the ongoing conflict, with no respite for the common people who come face to face with death, destitution and destruction on daily basis.  

A report by UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has come up with disturbing numbers about civilian deaths in the war – at least 3,812 civilians killed or injured in the first six months of 2019. 

The worrying sign is that they were not all killed by militants, as is often believed. Rather, the majority of non-combatant deaths were due to actions by the government and NATO troops.

The UNAMA report shows that 1,366 civilians were killed and another 2,446 wounded until June 30 and that, although the militants caused the majority of casualties, pro-government forces killed more civilians than rebels. 

It means the use of force by government troops has become increasingly lethal to the civilian population caught in the middle. This is backed by the findings of the report that says that Afghan national troops and their NATO allies killed 717 civilians and wounded 680, a 31% increase from the same period in 2018. 

In contrast, Taliban and Islamic State militants killed 531 civilians and injured another 1,437.

The report notes that at least 144 women and 327 children were killed and over 1,000 wounded. This proves the ferocity of the internecine warfare strangling the country and its potential progress.  

An injured child receives medical treatment at a hospital in Mehtarlam, capital of Afghanistan's eastern province of Laghman, April 15, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, through a tweet, expressed anguish at the situation, saying: "A record number of children were killed and maimed in conflict last year. This is unacceptable – every child deserves protection. Victims must be supported and perpetrators brought to justice."

The UNAMA also expressed shock at the death toll of common people and urged the warring sides to think of ways to reduce civilian losses, as the talks to end the 18-year war have entered a crucial phase in Doha, Qatar.

The Afghan government and the Taliban, in their direct contact in Qatar also emphasized a desire to curtail the civilian losses as they make gradual progress towards achieving peace. 

The U.S. forces spokesperson in Afghanistan, Colonel Sonny Leggett, however, disputed the methods used by UNAMA to prepare the report; yet it goes without saying that non-combatant casualties are a fact and a matter of concern for all. 

One can disagree with the number of civilian losses as quoted by the UNAMA but there is no dispute that common Afghans are suffering most due to the war. Ironically, those being hit by the violence had nothing to do with the way the conflict started or developed.  

The tragedy of ordinary Afghans makes a compelling case for ending the war at the earliest possible moment. It is high time that parties to the conflict should seek to bridge their differences and make serious efforts to establish normalcy. 

A general view of the capital city of Kabul on August 3, 2019, as new talks between the U.S. and the Taliban go on. [Photo/VCG]

The 8th round of Doha process is expected to start soon and there is likelihood of some sort of agreement between the U.S. side and Taliban. Special representative for Afghanistan, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, has already said some kind of breakthrough was expected by September. 

However, lack of progress in the intra-Afghan dialogue remains a serious hurdle. Taliban and Afghan government have deep differences and suspicions in regard to each other. Though, efforts are being made to bring them closer together, trust needs to be established first.  

As a goodwill gesture, the two sides should agree to protect civilians at the very least. They can do this by creating "pockets of peace" in each district and major cities. Such designated areas should be immune from any kind of violence. 

The Taliban should declare not to target those areas and government should promise not to use them for military purposes. The two sides should also declare education institutions, hospitals and other such buildings as protected.  

It will be a good confidence-building measure and help the two sides to move forward on peace trajectory. Failure to protect the civilians will be a huge embarrassment for all, so, hopefully, the two sides can sit together and agree to save civilian lives.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

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