June 19, 2018

Civilian casualties down, airstrike deaths up in Afghanistan

16 February 2018, 04:52 | Simon Arnold

Taliban publishes open letter to Americans

Taliban asks US to engage in peace talks

Moreover, Afghanistan is now producing historic levels of opium and its heroin derivative, generating up to 65 percent in funding for the Taliban that allows the group to continue to wage war, according to data from the U.S.

The militant group said the war has borne tremendous casualties on both sides and killed thousands of innocents including 3,546 American and foreign soldiers.

They have also refused to comply with demands from the engage in talks with the Afghan government.

The 2017 Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan found that between January 1 and December 31, 2017, there were 10,453 civilian casualties - 3,438 deaths and 7,015 wounded.

"You should ask your generals that despite using such force, have you retaken even a single inch of land from the Taliban", the document asked.

But as the Taliban and the Islamic State group have come under more pressure they have increasingly carried out indiscriminate assaults in cities, with casualties from suicide bombings and attacks jumping by 17 percent.

The letter attempts to persuade the United States that the war is unwinnable, citing the 3,546 troops that have been killed and the 87% increase in drug production in 2017.

"If you want peaceful dialogue with the Afghans specifically and with the world generally, then make your president and the war-mongering congressmen and Pentagon officials understand this reality and compel them to adopt a rational policy towards Afghanistan".

The letter's release comes as the USA steps up airstrikes in support of anti-insurgent ground and air operations by Afghan forces, under Mr Trump's new war strategy.

The number of civilian casualties in conflict-hit Afghanistan documented by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in 2017 reached more than 10,000, according to a report released here on Thursday. No group claimed responsibility but the Taliban were suspected.

"The key finding in the report is that more than 10,000 civilians died and injured as a result of conflicts in 2017, the majority of civilians killed are the outcome of attacks by anti government elements, and it includes not only the Taliban but also the Daesh or Islamic State (IS)", UNAMA chief and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto told reporters here.

A more aggressive USA strategy in Afghanistan including a surge in air strikes introduced by President Donald Trump in August has pushed the Taliban back from several district centers and two provincial capitals.

However, Taliban said privatizing the war would be a grave mistake after reports surfaced that a private firm named Black Water offered its services to replace the USA troops with 5,500 private contractors who would train the Afghan soldiers to join them in the fight against Taliban.

An unidentified spokesperson for the U.S. State Department reportedly responded to the peace-seeking letter, saying the ball is in the Taliban's court to end their violent terror campaign.

The U.S. has recently sent mixed responses about its readiness to communicate directly with the Taliban. "The recent attacks speak louder than these words", said the spokesman, Captain Tom Gresback.

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