UN urging Taliban to reduce Afghan civilian casualties
EDITH M. LEDERER
Dec. 19, 2014
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. said Friday it's been talking to the Taliban about reducing civilian casualties in Afghanistan but hasn't seen any change on the ground, where it attributes 75 percent of deaths and injuries this year to the insurgent group that used to rule the country.
Nicholas Haysom, the top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, told a news conference that the U.N. has shared its casualty reports with Taliban officials who have an office in Doha, capital of the Gulf nation of Qatar.
He said the Taliban officials' initial response was to reject the report and claim the U.N. figures are inaccurate. But he said the U.N. has been able to demonstrate that almost all issues they raised have been addressed in the casualty report.
Georgette Gagnon, the human rights director for the U.N.'s Afghan mission known as UNAMA, said the world body has seen a change in Taliban "messaging" but no measurable improvement on the ground.
"I can report that recently we've seen a bit of a change in their targeting — targeting of more military targets, lawful targets, but still using tactics or means which are disproportionate or indiscriminate and end up killing and injuring civilians," she said.
According to UNAMA, in the 11 months up to Nov. 30, there were 9,617 civilian casualties in Afghanistan — 3,188 deaths and 6,429 injuries.
Gagnon said the U.N. expects to see the number of civilian casualties top 10,000 by the time the year ends for the first time since UNAMA started recording casualties in 2008.
Haysom said the U.N. has for several years been in close contact with Afghan government and international forces on the issue of civilian casualties and has recorded "some success" in reducing the numbers. UNAMA attributes 12 percent of civilian casualties to pro-government forces.
In addition to its more recent talks with the Taliban about reducing civilian deaths and injuries, Haysom said UNAMA has also discussed with the insurgent group what the requirements are for combatants under international human rights laws in dealing with civilians.
"We will continue to share with them our reports as they become available, and request them to engage with us in the interest of reducing civilian casualties," he said.