July saw the highest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in a single month since 2017, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said amid rejuvenated yet fragile peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Its preliminary findings indicate more than 1,500 civilians were killed or wounded, mainly due to a spike in casualties from insurgent attacks. It did not provide a breakdown of deaths and injuries, but said the overall number was the highest for a single month since May 2017.
Last month, in its midyear report, the U.N. mission documented 3,812 civilian casualties (1,366 deaths and 2,446 injured) in the first half of 2019. Civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces exceeded those caused by anti-government elements for the second quarter in a row, the report showed. According to the report, women and children continued to be disproportionately impacted by the armed conflict in Afghanistan.
The Taliban have kept up a steady tempo of attacks despite holding several rounds of peace talks with the United States in recent months. The two sides appear to be closing in on an agreement in which U.S. forces would withdraw in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not become a haven for terrorist groups. Washington is hoping to strike a peace deal with the Taliban by September 1, ahead of Afghan polls due to take place in the same month, and U.S. presidential elections due in 2020. President Donald Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that "we've made a lot of progress. We're talking."