KABUL                 -               The United Nations released its latest report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan which documents up to 10,400 civilian deaths and injuries during the year 2019.

The UN Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a statement said “The new report documents 3,403 civilians killed and 6,989 injured, with the majority of the civilian casualties inflicted by anti-government elements.”

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) blamed the Taliban, Islamic State and other militant groups for causing 49% of the deaths, saying pro-government forces, including the U.S.-led coalition, were responsible for 43% deaths. The rest were caught in crossfire and other conflict-related incidents.

The report came as a seven-day mutually agreed reduced fighting truce went into effect Saturday to pave the way for the United States to sign a peace agreement with the Taliban on February 29, with the aim of ending the 18-year-old Afghan war, America’s longest.

UNAMA noted in its report the number of civilians killed or injured in conflict-related incidents in Afghanistan in the last 10 years alone surpassed a “grim milestone” of more than 100,000 casualties.

“Almost no civilian in Afghanistan has escaped being personally affected in some way by the ongoing violence,” said UNAMA chief Tadamichi Yamamoto. “It is absolutely imperative for all parties to seize the moment to stop the fighting, as peace is long overdue; civilian lives must be protected and efforts for peace are underway,” he stressed. The Taliban swiftly rejected the UNAMA report that the insurgent group was responsible for most of the casualties. It alleged in a statement that the U.N. mission in Afghanistan was running a campaign in support of American “occupation forces.”

The signing of the US-Taliban agreement this coming Saturday in Qatar will be witnessed by international dignitaries. It would set the stage for a gradual withdrawal of roughly 13,000 American troops from the country and open peace talks between Afghan parties to the conflict to agree on a permanent nationwide cease-fire and power-sharing in postwar Afghanistan.

The upcoming U.S.-Taliban agreement has raised concerns among Afghans that Washington could again abandon their country, just like it did after the withdrawal of Soviet occupation forces that led to a deadly civil war and brought the radical Taliban to power in the 1990s.

U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, however, dismissed those concerns while speaking at an international conference on Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan earlier this week. “We are not looking for cutting and running, as some say, because if that was the case I wouldn’t be working on a peace process, we would do just a (troop) withdrawal and we don’t need anyone’s permission to withdraw. We could do it unilaterally,” Khalilzad stressed.