The United Nations has recorded nearly 2,400 Afghan civilian casualties in clashes between Taliban militants and government forces in the month of May and June alone, marking a new high in 12 years.
In a new report released Monday, the UN’s Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) further pointed out that it had documented a total of 5,183 civilian casualties for the first half of this year, of which 1,659 were deaths, warning that the country could see the highest number of civilians killed since it began keeping records in 2009.
The new toll, it said, marked a 47-percent increase compared to the same period last year.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” said the UN secretary-general’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons. “Unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed.”
According to the report, the rise in civilian casualties was particularly sharp in May and June -- the initial period of the Taliban's current offensives -- with 783 civilians killed and 1,609 wounded, marking a new record for the two months since 2009.
UNAMA also pointed to a resurgence of sectarian attacks against the country's Shia Hazara community, resulting in 143 deaths.
“Particularly shocking and of deep concern is that women, boys and girls made up of close to half of all civilian casualties,” the report added.
Violence has surged since early May when the Taliban escalated operations after the United States failed to honor an agreement with the militants to fully withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by May 1.
UNAMA alleged that Afghan troops and pro-government forces were responsible for a quarter of all civilian casualties. It blamed anti-government elements for 64 percent of civilian casualties -- including some 40 percent caused by the Taliban and nearly nine percent by the Takfiri Daesh terrorists.
About 16 percent of casualties were caused by "undetermined" anti-government elements, it added.
The figures underscored the dire situation for Afghan civilians as intense fighting picked up in May and June.
US President Joe Biden has declared that the withdrawal will be complete by the end of August, bringing an end to 20 years of war that toppled the Taliban regime but has failed to bring peace and security to Afghanistan.
Heavy clashes across Afghanistan have taken place in the past two months as the Taliban launched major offensives, taking rural districts, border crossings and surrounding provincial capitals, prompting Afghan and US forces to carry out airstrikes to try and push back the militants.
Negotiators have been meeting in Qatar’s capital of Doha in recent weeks but diplomats have cautioned there has been little substantive progress since peace talks began in September.