US General McKenzie Pledges More Airstrikes in Afghanistan as Civilian Casualties Hit Record Levels

The head of the US Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, pledged on Sunday that US military will continue  supporting  the Afghan government with airstrikes against the Taliban militants at least in the coming weeks although it’s not sure if they’ll continue past the end of August when the withdrawal of the US troops should be finished, DW reports.

General McKenzie told reporters in Kabul over the weekend that the US has increased air strikes over the last several days to support the Afghan forces and is ready to continue this heightened level of support if the Taliban continue their attacks.

The Taliban’s advance has intensified since the US troops’ withdrawal began in May with militants now claiming to have gained control of more than 80% of Afghanistan.

“I do not accept the narrative that there is going to be a civil war of necessity,” McKenzie said.

He noted that the Afghan government will show in the weeks that follow if it’ll be able to defend the country. Meanwhile, the UN said in a report on Monday that civilian casualties have reached record levels in the last six months with 1,659 killed civilians and 3,254 wounded, which is a 47 percent increase compared to the same period in 2020. 

According to the report, the number of 783 killed and 1,609 wounded civilians during May and June is the highest for that period since UNAMA began its systematic documentation in 2009.

The head of UNAMA, Deborah Lyons, who’s also a Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, called on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to intensify negotiations and to protect the Afghan people from the devastating impact of the conflict, warning of an unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians that will perish this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed.

Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the Taliban are committing atrocities against civilians in areas they had captured although Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses and killings in areas under their control.

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