New data released Monday from the United Nations finds that U.S.-backed forces in Afghanistan were responsible for killing more than twice as many children as did extremists during the first three months of 2020.
The figures come from the latest quarterly report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
From January 1 - March 31, said UNAMA, there were 1,293 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, including 533 killed and 760 injured. The tally reflects a 29% decrease compared to the same three-month period last year but still underscores that "the conflict in Afghanistan continues to be one of the deadliest in the world for civilians, at a time when the potential impact of COVID-19 poses a threat to all individuals in Afghanistan," said UNAMA.
The report puts the blame for the majority of the casualties—55%—on "anti-government elements," including the Taliban and ISIS. Those groups caused 710 civilian casualties, including 282 killed and 428 injured.
But so called "pro-government forces," which are comprised of Afghan national security forces and international military forces, were responsible 32% of all civilian casualties during the first quarter, causing 412 civilian casualties including 198 killed and 214 injured.
"Of concern," said the report, "pro-government forces were responsible for more child casualties than anti-government elements during the first three months of the year and over twice as many child deaths, mainly due to airstrikes and indirect fire during ground engagements."
Afghan national security forces are to blame for 21% and international military forces for 8% of overall civilian casualties, added the report.
New UNAMA report: More than 500 civilians killed, including +150 children, due to #Afghanistan conflict in Q1/2020, with a disturbing increase in violence in March. Urgent need for ceasefire. Read more: https://t.co/9esFqbxPCb #HumanRights #ZeroCivilianCasualtiesNow pic.twitter.com/mC0IK4xm48— UNAMA News (@UNAMAnews) April 27, 2020
The figures come roughly one month after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire in the face of the coronavirus pandemic—a call which has faced pushback from the U.S. and Russia.
"The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war," Guterres said in March.
Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general's Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, pleaded for Guterres' words to not fall on deaf ears.
"I call on all parties to seize the opportunity offered by the Secretary-General's call for a global ceasefire to focus collective efforts on fighting a common enemy, the COVID-19 pandemic," she said in a statement Monday.
"To safeguard the lives of countless civilians in Afghanistan and to give the nation hope of a better future," continued Lyons, "it is imperative that violence is stopped with the establishment of a ceasefire and for peace negotiations to commence."