Pro-government forces in Afghanistan were responsible for more civilian deaths than those attributed to anti-government elements including the Taliban during the first quarter of 2019, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said on Wednesday. The international organisation’s report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, however, reported a 23% decrease in the overall civilian casualties as compared to the same period (January 1 to March 31) last year.

The mission attributed 305 civilian deaths and 303 injury reports in the first quarter to pro-government forces and said that it accounted for a 39% increase compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

“UNAMA attributed 17% of civilian casualties to the Afghan national security forces, 13% to international military forces, 2% to pro-government armed groups, and 2% to multiple pro-government forces,” the report said. “Continuing trends observed in 2018, UNAMA documented increased harm to civilians from aerial and search operations.”

The report expressed the UNAMA’s concern “that these forces appear to act with impunity, outside of the governmental chain of command”. The mission urged for increased transparency and accountability.

“UNAMA urges both the Afghan national security forces and international military forces to conduct investigations into allegations of civilian casualties, to publish the results of their findings, and to provide compensation to victims as appropriate,” the statement said.

The organisation praised Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s order to review the mechanisms and procedures used in military operations with a view to preventing civilian casualties.