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Civilian casualties in Afghanistan hit record high amid U.S troop withdrawal, UN says

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan have hit record highs amid the U.S. troop withdrawal from the country, the UN said in a report released Monday.

Why it matters: The report, which documented more than 1,650 civilians deaths in the first half of 2021, provides a "clear warning" that an unprecedented number of Afghan civilians "will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," the UN mission in Afghanistan said.

By the numbers: Afghanistan recorded 1,659 civilian deaths and 3,254 injuries in the first six months of this year, a 47% increase from the same period last year, according to the report.

  • In May and June alone, nearly 800 civilians were killed and more than 1,600 were wounded — the highest number of casualties for those months since UNAMA began its systematic documentation in 2009.
  • Women and children made up nearly half of the civilian casualties, per the report.
  • More than 460 children were killed and 1,214 wounded.

The big picture: The U.S.-NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan is about 95% complete, with the U.S. mission in the country slated to end on Aug. 31.

  • The U.S. departure has coincided with large territorial gains by the Taliban and a sharp uptick in violence.
  • A regional U.S. commander said Sunday that the military has stepped up its airstrikes against the Taliban and will continue to do so in the weeks ahead.

What they're saying: “I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians," Deborah Lyons, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Go deeper: U.S. offers more air support to Afghan forces in fight against Taliban

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