In Afghanistan, the Taliban continues to retake territory at an alarming clip, even as their designated spokesmen continue to promise the media that they are seeking a “peaceful resolution” as allied forces vacate the country. In the latest example, insurgents have now surrounded the southeastern city of Kandahar near the border with Pakistan and have begun executing residents who are accused of cooperating with the government in Kabul. They have set up checkpoints around the city, interrogating anyone seeking to flee the area and seek refuge across the border. The executions aren’t limited to men, however, The insurgents are killing women and children in numbers not seen since the United Nations began tracking casualties there more than a decade ago. And as the Associated Press reported last night, the pace of the slaughter is only increasing.
More women and children were killed and wounded in Afghanistan in the first half of 2021 than in the first six months of any year since the United Nations began systematically keeping count in 2009, a U.N. report said Monday.
The war-torn country saw a 47% increase in the number of all civilians killed and wounded in violence across Afghanistan in the first six months of the year, compared to the same period last year, according to the report.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” said Deborah Lyons, the U.N. secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan.
The United Nations mission in the country recently released its Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict midyear update. They recorded 1,659 civilians killed and 3,254 wounded, an increase of almost 50% over the same period last year. And for the first time, nearly half of all casualties (46%) were women and children. 468 children were killed by the Taliban in six months.
The forecast for the immediate future isn’t looking much better. In fact, things could take a turn for the significantly worse in short order. Most of the casualties thus far have been recorded in the more rural provinces and the areas surrounding the larger cities. But once the fighting moves into the populated sections of cities like Kandahar and Kabul, the death toll is expected to skyrocket.
The pattern of killing women and young girls is unfortunately giving us a preview of what we can expect from the Taliban once they fully retake control. Some of the girls and young women in Afghanistan have grown up and spent their entire lives only knowing a country where American and NATO forces were on hand to provide at least some measure of protection. Many have taken advantage of this fact to live at least a slightly more “westernized” life in terms of being able to go to school and dress a bit more casually.
That’s all changing very quickly. The Taliban are executing women who have learned to read and who fail to dress in the full, traditional garb of strict Islamic guidelines. Young girls who are not practicing Islam “properly” are disappearing on a regular basis. One local reporter was quoted as saying that the UN’s figures for the number of dead or wounded children may already be a significant undercount.
The Taliban continues to claim that they “do not want to monopolize power,” while calling for President Ashraf Ghani to be removed from office. The actions of their fighters across the country do not match the words of their spokesmen. They also promised that the translators and other people who assisted the allied troops would be spared. And yet it was recently revealed that they already pulled one translator from his vehicle outside of Kabul and beheaded him by the side of the road.
Afghanistan is on its way to sinking back to the same pile of rubble stuck in the 7th century that it’s traditionally been. We shouldn’t leave any sort of diplomatic outpost behind when the last of our troops are ready to go. If we do, we will eventually pay for that decision with their lives.