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  • War in Afghanistan (2001-present)

image copyrightGetty Imagesimage captionFighting has escalated in recent months as foreign forces have withdrawn

The number of Afghan civilians killed or injured in escalating violence has risen to record levels in the first half of this year, the UN says.

A new report says Afghanistan has recorded more than 1,600 civilian deaths so far in 2021. That's a 47% rise compared to this time last year.

And the UN warns that the number of deaths could rise still further.

Afghan government forces have been fighting Taliban insurgents, who now control large parts of the country.

Most international forces have now withdrawn after a mission lasting nearly 20 years.

  • EXPLAINER: Life in Afghanistan after America leaves
  • ANALYSIS: Was 20 years in Afghanistan worth it?
  • BACKGROUND: Who are the Taliban?

Casualties in May and June rose to their highest for this period since the UN began recording the numbers in 2009.

According to the UN report, anti-government forces were responsible for 64% of civilian casualties. Pro-government forces accounted for 25%, and 11% are blamed on crossfire. Of all casualties, 32% were children.

Peace talks between the two sides are moving slowly. Deborah Lyons, the UN special envoy for Afghanistan, urged both sides to "take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory".

"The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," she said in the UN release.

A US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 ousted the Taliban from power.

This year US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of US forces from the country by September.

On Saturday top US commander Gen Kenneth McKenzie said their forces would continue carrying out air strikes in support of Afghan troops. He said a Taliban victory was not inevitable.

However, Gen McKenzie did not say if the strikes would continue after the end of the US military mission on 31 August.

US forces launched air strikes last week against Taliban militants as they advanced on the city of Kandahar.

Afghan officials imposed a month-long nightly curfew across most of the country on Saturday to try to halt a Taliban invasion of cities.