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Civilian casualties down in Afghanistan in 2019; 2,800 killed

A boy receives treatment at a Jalalabad, Afghanistan, hospital on October 18, 2019, after he was injured in an explosion in Nangarhar province. File Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE
A boy receives treatment at a Jalalabad, Afghanistan, hospital on October 18, 2019, after he was injured in an explosion in Nangarhar province. File Photo by Ghulamullah Habibi/EPA-EFE

Feb. 5 (UPI) -- Nearly 3,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year as part of the ongoing conflict that's now almost two decades old, new government statistics said -- but the overall civilian toll was down from 2018.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said in its annual report Tuesday there were more than 10,000 civilian casualties due to fighting in 2019 -- about 2,800 dead and 8,000 injured.

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The commission said the militant Taliban group was responsible for 71 percent of the civilian casualties, amid on-again, off-again peace talks with the United States to end the fighting. About 14 percent were caused by the Afghan government and 5 percent by the Islamic State terror group, it noted.

The AIHRC report, however, said last year's toll was down 7 percent compared to 2018, when the casualty count was 11,611.

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"The Afghan defense and security forces have targeted most of the perpetrators of such attacks and have eliminated them," Afghan interior ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said.

The analysis said including last year's figures nearly 87,000 civilians were injured or killed in Afghanistan between 2009 and 2019. It called on all sides to abide by the 1949 Geneva Convention and violators should be put on trial.

"Peace is the urgent need of the Afghan people," the AIHRC said. "The conflicting parties are called to begin an intra-Afghan dialogue as soon as possible and to establish a cease-fire, taking into consideration the maintenance of justice and human rights protection of the citizens.

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"The warring parties are urged not to harm the civilians under any circumstances. According to International Humanitarian Law, intentional killing or harming of civilians are examples of a war crime."

U.S. forces have been in Afghanistan since late 2001, but U.S. President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address Tuesday night they will soon leave.

"I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them innocent," Trump said. "It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency.

"These are warfighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all. We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home."

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