Afghan Taliban Say They Want to End War Through 'Dialogue'

Taliban asks US to engage in peace talks

The number of civilian casualties in the war in Afghanistan declined past year but the number of deaths from air strikes was on the rise, the United Nations says.

Two-thirds of all casualties previous year were inflicted by anti-government forces, with the Taliban responsible for 42 percent, Islamic State 10 percent and 13 percent caused by undetermined anti-government elements.

"The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war's impact, but the figures alone can not capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children", said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations special representative for Afghanistan.

The American general asserted a recent wave of Taliban suicide bombings against Afghan civilians stemmed from insurgent battlefield setbacks and losses.

Citing the "3,546 American and foreign soldiers" killed and the "87 percent rise" in heroin production in 2017, the letter argues that "if the policy of using force is continued for another one hundred years, the outcome will be the same ... as you have observed over the last six months since the initiation of Trump's new strategy".

The majority of the victims in 2017 were killed or wounded by anti-government insurgents, according to the report.

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Over all, the 84-page report notes, the number of civilian casualties declined 9 percent compared with the record numbers seen in 2016, driven primarily by a drop in casualties caused by ground clashes. It may be mentioned that United Nations started documenting the casualties in Afghanistan in 2009 and it had no data of human causalities from 2001 to 2009.

The Taliban, fighting to oust foreign forces and defeat the USA -backed government, said the United States must end its "occupation" and accept the Taliban right to form a government "consistent with the beliefs of our people".

Less than 5 percent of the civilian casualties were caused by Afghan government forces and their allies, the worldwide troops, while 11 percent of the casualties were caused by unattributed cross-fire during fighting between Afghan forces and anti-government elements, the report said.

The report noted that suicide attacks together with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, caused 40 percent of the civilian casualties.

UNAMA also documented an increase in attacks against places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers, recording 499 civilian casualties with 202 deaths and 297 injured, during 38 such attacks in 2017. It was the first annual decline in overall civilian casualties since 2012. As many as 283 deaths and 1,179 injuries were reported in 2009 from Arial operations, suicide and Complex attacks and figures were 605 and 2,295 respectively in 2017.

"Each of these figures represents a hope crushed for a better future", lamented UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto while addressing a news conference in Kabul.

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