UNAMA on Thursday said that the increase of violence “only heaps further hardship and misery on ordinary Afghans and undermines efforts for progress and building bridges between parties at the historic Afghanistan peace talks in Doha.”
UNAMA also said that the violence “unleashed in Helmand this week has forced thousands of Afghanistan civilians to leave their homes and initial reports suggest civilians have been killed and injured, including women and children.”
Civilians have borne the brunt of Afghanistan’s conflict, the message said, adding that “the number of civilians killed and injured --a key indicator of the intensity of violence-- has so far been lower in 2020, but in recent weeks a worrying reversal seems to be emerging.”
“Civilians are routinely killed or injured in armed clashes with high casualties resulting from indirect weapons: mortars, rockets, grenades. These civilians, including many children, must be protected from harm. The only way to do that is to stop the violence,” it said.
UNAMA reiterates its call to halt violence and to focus on achieving a peaceful negotiated settlement to the Afghanistan conflict.
In the meantime, the US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson on social media said “I stand behind UNAMA’s call to protect civilians in Helmand, who should have safe passage to leave dangerous areas. It is indefensible that the Taliban continues to put civilians at risk through needless violence. Afghanistan needs peace now.”
Also, the UK embassy in Kabul condemns the Taliban offensive in Helmand where “alarming numbers of civilians" have been "displaced, injured or killed" and says the attacks "undermine the crucial peace talks" and all sides "must urgently reduce the violence and work towards a ceasefire."
“We continue to support the ANDSF and the brave efforts made to create lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” the UK Embassy said.
Clashes between government forces and the Taliban in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, and surrounding areas have entered their sixth day.
On Wednesday, at least nine people were killed when two Afghan National Army (ANA) MI-17 helicopters "crashed due to technical issues" in Nawa district of Helmand early on Wednesday morning, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
Amid deteriorating security, Afghan acting Minister of Defense Assadullah Khalild on Wednesday visited Lashkargah where he pledged to improve the security situation.
Clashes have been ongoing in several parts of Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand, and Nadi Ali district. The Taliban began their attacks on the city and other districts on the weekend.
On Monday night, Afghan commandos with air support launched an operation in Lashkargah, according to local officials.
The fighting was ongoing in the 601 highway and in Nad Ali district and the Babaji area in PD4 of Lashkargah.
Thousands of families have been displaced because of the fighting in recent days.
Eight Schools Closed Amid Fighting
4,000 students at eight schools in southern Helmand are not attending classes due to ongoing clashes that started nearly a week ago, the Ministry of Education confirmed on Thursday.
The Ministry of Education officials have urged the conflicting parties to respect the rules of war and to allow the students to continue education.
General Meeting of Both Sides Held
A general meeting of chiefs and delegates from both the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as well as the Taliban was held on Wednesday evening, said Nader Nadery, a delegate from the repbulic's side.
In the meeting, the issue of resolving the disputed issues was discussed and it was emphasized that the contact groups from both sides should provide solutions to the disputed issues as soon as possible, said Nadery.
Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Naeem in Doha confirmed a general session was held tonight with both teams. He said contested points were discussed and contact groups were instructed to resolve the dispute as soon as possible. The agenda will be discussed next, he said.
It was reported earlier that the negotiating team representing the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan had made new suggestions to break the current deadlock, sources within the republic’s team said on Wednesday.
After two weeks of stopped talks, the contact groups from both sides of the Afghan negotiations resumed their meetings on Monday to seek an agreement on procedural rules intended for the formal talks. However, the recent meeting also ended without an outcome.
According to sources, one of the suggestions is to remove the discussion about the controversial procedural rules and discuss them in the next phase of the talks.
The Doha talks officially commenced one month ago on September 12 with the hope of ending of decades of war in the country. So far, the contact groups of the two sides—set up to discuss procedural rules—have held eight meetings.