Civilian casualties in Afghanistan reached record levels in the first half of 2021, the United Nations warned Monday, noting that deaths and injuries spiked markedly from May when the United States and its allies began withdrawing troops from the country. Some 5,183 casualties were recorded in the first six months of the year — a 47% increase from 2020 — the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found in a report.
Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer prize-winning photojournalist who worked for Reuters news agency, has been killed in southern Afghanistan. Siddiqui was in the border town of Spin Boldak on assignment with Afghan security forces when he was caught in Taliban crossfire, an Afghan commander told the news agency. He had documented the intense pressure on Afghan commando units in a story published earlier this week.
The last US and Nato forces have left Afghanistan’s Bagram airbase, the center of the war against militants for some 20 years. President Joe Biden has said US forces will be gone by 11 September. But the withdrawal from the sprawling base, north of Kabul, comes as the main jihadist group, the Taliban, advances in many parts of Afghanistan.
Taliban fighters took control of a key district in Afghanistan’s northern Kunduz province Monday and encircled the provincial capital, police said, as the insurgent group added to its recent battlefield victories while peace talks have stalemated. The Taliban’s gains came as the Pentagon reaffirmed the U.S. troop withdrawal was still on pace to conclude by early September.
The United States has deployed extra military resources to protect American and coalition forces withdrawing from Afghanistan. Heavy bombers and fighter jets will be deployed to safeguard troops and civilian contractors. The US and Nato have had a presence in Afghanistan for almost 20 years. US President Joe Biden has set the withdrawal deadline for 11 September – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks that sparked the war.
Gunmen shot dead a finance ministry employee and former news anchor in Afghanistan’s southern city of Kandahar, provincial officials said on Thursday, the latest in a spate of attacks in recent weeks. Journalists, civil society activists, government officials, and judges are among those targeted in such attacks in recent months, while Washington announced plans last month to pull out all U.S. troops by Sept. 11.
President Joe Biden will announce Wednesday that the United States will fully withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a symbolic deadline marking the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks, senior administration officials said Tuesday. The troop drawdown will begin before May 1, the deadline for complete withdrawal as outlined in a deal the Trump administration reached with the Taliban. The U.S. says there are roughly 2,500 troops serving in Afghanistan.
The leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan has issued a decree urging the group’s leaders and commanders to forego taking multiple wives, which he said was inviting “criticism from our enemies”. Muslim men can be permitted by religion to have up to four wives at a time and polygamy is still legal in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some other predominantly Muslim nations.
Up to five doctors and health staff working at a high-security Afghan prison holding Taliban inmates were killed on their way to work when a bomb was placed on their car. The assassination with a homemade bomb was the latest in a wave of killings using so-called magnetic or sticky bombs. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the killing, but the Taliban said they were not involved.
The Pentagon is reducing troop levels in Afghanistan and Iraq to 2,500 by Jan. 15, acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said Tuesday, a move that the Trump administration has signaled for months. The decision to draw down troops to those levels in Afghanistan, which was initially announced last month by national security adviser Robert O’Brien, comes despite recent remarks from senior military officials that conditions on the ground do not warrant such a move.