US Accused of Killing Greatest Number of Civilians; Press Accuses Taliban of "Threatening" Oil Fields
January 7, 2019
The News & Agence France-Pressse & Abdul Matin Sahak / Reuters
The Taliban blamed US and Afghan forces for almost 90 percent of civilian casualties in 2018 -- in a report that suggested Afghanistan's largest militant group was not responsible for a single death or injury. Meanwhile, Reuters reports that Taliban fighters are "threatening" major oil wells near the northern Afghan city of Sar-e Pul following days of fighting in which dozens of members of the security forces have been killed and wounded.
Taliban Blames US, Afghan Forces
For Most Civilian Casualties in 2018
The News & Agence France-Pressse
KABUL (January 4, 2019) -- The Taliban blamed US and Afghan forces for almost 90 percent of civilian casualties in 2018, in a report released Friday that suggested Afghanistan's largest militant group was not responsible for a single death or injury.
The data -- which NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan dismissed as "propaganda" -- follows a record year of bloodshed in the Afghan war, which by some estimates overtook Syria as the world's deadliest conflict zone.
The figures, which the Taliban release every year and are based on "witnesses and primary sources", showed a total of 4,170 civilian casualties -- 2,294 deaths and 1,876 wounded -- last year.
US and "stooge" Afghan government forces caused 3,705 casualties, while the Daesh and other "unknown" entities were responsible for 465, the Taliban claimed.
Rejecting the figures, Resolute Support said the Taliban continued "to inflict great harm on Afghan civilians".
"Over the last few months alone, the Taliban has carried out a host of atrocities against their own countrymen," the NATO mission said in a statement.
The Taliban's total number of civilian casualties is around half the number reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) for the first nine months of 2018.
UNAMA's last report in October found the majority of civilian casualties were caused by militants, including the Taliban. Its full-year tally is expected to be released next month.
The Taliban's report comes as international efforts to convince the militants to end the 17-year war gather pace, even as US President Donald Trump moves to slash the number of American troops in Afghanistan and the militants slaughter Afghan forces in record numbers.
Taliban Threaten Oil Fields in Northern Afghanistan
Abdul Matin Sahak / Reuters
MAZAR-I-SHARIF, Afghanistan (January 4, 2019) -- Taliban fighters are threatening major oil wells near the northern Afghan city of Sar-e Pul following days of fighting in which dozens of members of the security forces have been killed and wounded, officials and residents said on Friday.
"The security situation in Sar-e Pul province is alarming," said Zabiullah Amani, the provincial governor's spokesman.
"We have had promises that reinforcements would be sent to the city but nothing has been done yet," he said.
About 40 members of the security forces were killed or wounded near Sar-e Pul on Tuesday during hours of fighting that underlined the heavy pressure Afghan government forces are facing even as moves towards peace have intensified.
"The Taliban have been launching major attacks for some time with the aim of securing these oil fields and we've set up a special protection force but they don't have advanced equipment," Amani said.
The wells in the Angot field, about 11 km east of Sar-e Pul city and Kashkari, 12 km to the south, were developed during the Soviet presence in Afghanistan.
Amani said eight wells were active, with millions of dollars' worth of military equipment, including armoured vehicles stored close by.
"These wells are economically important, not just for the province of Sar-e Pul but for the whole of Afghanistan," he said.
The capture of the wells would deliver a blow to the government and bolster Taliban finances, adding to revenues from taxation, mining and opium.
An aide to interior minister Amrullah Saleh said additional forces had been sent to the oil fields from neighbouring districts and a team from Kabul would be sent in coming days.
"As of now, the area is secure but we cannot deny the threat warning," he said, adding that companies operating the wells had been alerted.
The fighting comes as another round of talks is expected between US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives to try to work out the basis for peace talks to end the 17-year Afghan war.
With US intentions unclear following reports that President Donald Trump is preparing to withdraw almost half of the estimated 14,000 US troops from Afghanistan, pressure on Afghan forces has been mounting.
Hekmat Haidari, a resident of Sar-e Pul city, said the situation in the province had been deteriorating sharply over recent days as the Taliban have stepped up operations.
"The oil wells in this province are a major source of income for Afghanistan and specially for Sar-e Pul province and the Taliban are trying to capture these wells or to destroy them," he said.
Additional reporting by Rupam Jain in Kabul.
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