ISLAMABAD - The United Nations says the war in Afghanistan has killed or injured more than 100,000 civilians in the past ten years, urging all warring sides to take “genuine and concrete” steps toward ending the 18-year-old hostilities.
The announcement comes as Taliban insurgents in a pre-dawn attack Thursday in the northern Balkh province reportedly killed at least 10 Afghan soldiers.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) lamented in a statement the war continues to take an appalling toll on civilians.
"I recognize with extreme sadness that civilian casualties recently surpassed 100,000 in the past 10 years alone, from the time the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began systematic documentation of civilian casualties in 2009 to the present,” said Yamamoto.
He urged all stakeholders to seek ways to reduce levels of violence to prevent civilian casualties, saying it will also help create an environment to further efforts aimed at starting intra-Afghan negotiations to find a political settlement to the war.
“The United Nations maintains that intra-Afghan talks which include women and youth are essential for an Afghan-owned peace process and are fundamental to all ongoing peace efforts,” Yamamoto stressed.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said Thursday’s insurgent raid in Balkh targeted a military base and confirmed the death of only six soldiers, saying three others were wounded in it.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid in a statement noted the attack began with a suicide car bombing before a group of insurgents stormed and captured the base in a district also named Balkh. He claimed the fighting left 12 Afghan soldiers dead and eight others wounded, though insurgents often issue inflated claims.
On Monday, Taliban insurgents also assaulted an army base in another district of Balkh, killing at least 15 Afghan soldiers and wounding several others.
Insurgents have lately intensified battlefield attacks in northern Afghan provinces where violence usually subsides during this time of the year because of extremely harsh weather conditions.
On Monday, the Taliban detonated a roadside bomb near a joint U.S. and Afghan military convoy in the volatile northern Kunduz province, killing an American soldier and his Afghan partner.
The latest U.S. fatality brought the number of American service members killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 19.
The Taliban controls or contests about half of Afghanistan and continues to plot attacks on local and U.S.-led foreign troops in the country. Insurgent attacks have killed some 50,000 Afghan security forces since late 2014, according to Afghan officials.
The United States is trying to negotiate an agreement with the Taliban to end the war, America’s longest overseas military intervention. U.S. negotiators are pressing Taliban interlocutors to reduce violence and enter into intra-Afghan negotiations to find a permanent end to decades of hostilities.
But the Taliban wants Washington to sign an agreement on the withdrawal of all U.S. and coalition troops from Afghanistan before the insurgent group commits itself to a nationwide cease-fire and participate in intra-Afghan negotiations.
But the dialogue has suffered setbacks in recent weeks due to the Taliban’s refusal to reduce violence.
The negotiation process had resumed earlier this month after a suspension of three months before the United States paused it again citing a major Taliban attack on the largest American military base in Afghanistan.
A U.S.-led military coalition invaded the country in 2001 to outset the Taliban regime at the time for sheltering the al-Qaida terrorist network blamed for the terrorist attacks on the United States in September of that year.
The war has since reportedly killed more than 150,000 people, including local security forces, civilians, insurgents and foreign troops. Some 2,300 U.S. soldiers also among those killed.
The conflict has cost the Untied States around a trillion dollars. More than 12,000 American troops and around 8,000 forces from NATO allies are still stationed in Afghanistan, conducting counterterrorism operations in addition to advising and assisting Afghan forces in battles against the Taliban.