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Afghanistan is at a 'dangerous turning point,' U.N. special envoy says

Afghanistan is at a 'dangerous turning point,' U.N. special envoy says
Afghan security officials arrive as part of a reinforcement to fight against Taliban militants as they push to gain access to the city in Herat earlier this month. File Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA-EFE

Aug. 7 (UPI) -- The U.N. Security Council must revive peace talks since Afghanistan is at a "dangerous turning point," as troop withdrawal nears completion, the U.N. special envoy to the country said.

U.N. special envoy to Afghanistan Deborah Lyons encouraged the U.N. Security Council on Friday to issue a statement calling for an end to attacks on cities.

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"Ahead lies either a genuine peace negotiation or a tragically intertwined set of crises: an increasingly brutal conflict combined with an acute humanitarian situation and multiplying human rights abuses," Lyons said.

Lyons added that the U.N. Security Council must revive peace talks with the Taliban on a general cease-fire to prevent the crisis from spilling across national borders while reiterating that the international community will not recognize a government imposed by force.

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She also said that the United Nations expected a reduction in violence in Afghanistan after the U.S.-Taliban deal was signed in February, but instead there was a 50% increase in civilian casualties.

In 2021, 25 aid workers were killed, 63 were injured and 83 were detained or arrested, and a humanitarian crisis and severe drought has left 18.5 million people in need of assistance, Lyons said.

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She emphasized that the war has entered a "deadlier and more destructive phase," since the Taliban has escalated fighting in urban areas, such as Kandahar, Herat, and Lashkar Gah. In Lashkar Gar, 104 civilians have been killed and 403 have been injured since July 28. The Taliban has also closed all roads in and out of the city of Lashkar Gah, hospitals are reaching capacity and food supplies are diminishing.

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"This is a different kind of war, reminiscent of Syria recently or Sarajevo in the not-so-distant past," Lyons said.

She continued that the Taliban attacking urban areas that the Afghan National Security and Defense Force have defended will cause massive casualties and damage basic infrastructure.

Lyons' warning comes among other diplomats also calling for a halt to the recent Taliban offensive that has led to a record number of civilian casualties and increased aid access.

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Andre Lipand, a diplomat in the Estonian Foreign Service, described attacks against U.N. personnel and compounds, such as the recent attack in Herat, as "utterly reprehensible," saying they might constitute war crimes and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.

Lipand added the number of civilians killed and injured has reached a record high since the offensive started with the Taliban responsible for the largest share of casualties.

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The fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces has escalated since April when U.S. and coalition forces began withdrawal from the country.

Since mid-April, Taliban and other groups, such as al-Qaida and the Islamic State, have launched more than 5,500 attacks in 31 of 34 provinces, Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said.

The U.S. troop withdrawal is set to be completed later this month.

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