U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on the Taliban Friday to immediately halt their military offensive and negotiate in good faith for the sake of Afghanistan and its people.
“The message from the international community to those on the warpath must be clear: Seizing power through military force is a losing proposition,” Guterres told reporters. “That can only lead to prolonged civil war or to the complete isolation of Afghanistan.”
The U.N. chief said the country is “spinning out of control” as the Taliban have seized about half of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and have their sights on the capital, Kabul.
“Continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage – with civilians paying the highest price,” he warned, calling on all parties to do more to protect civilians.
The United Nations says more than 1,000 civilians have been killed or injured in the past month in indiscriminate attacks, especially in Helmand, Kandahar and Herat provinces. Nearly a quarter of a million others have been displaced by the fighting.
“Only an Afghan-led negotiated political settlement can ensure peace,” Guterres said, urging substantive discussions between representatives of the Taliban and the government. Talks between the two sides have been taking place in Doha, Qatar.
“I am also deeply disturbed by early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists,” he said. “It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away from them.”
Earlier Friday, Guterres’ spokesperson said that the United Nations had no plans to leave the country despite the rapidly deteriorating security situation.
"There is no evacuation of U.N. staff going on,” Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
He said the organization was evaluating the security situation “literally on an hour-by-hour basis,” and assessing where it might be able to lighten its footprint, but that aid continued to be delivered to a number of places, including Kabul.
The United Nations has about 3,000 national staff and 300 international staff working in the country. Another 420 international staff have been working remotely outside the country because of the COVID-19 pandemic.