Civilian casualties in the worsening war in Afghanistan are up just over 30 percent in the current year, the United Nations said in a mid-year report this week, holding the Taliban responsible for three-quarters of the deaths or injuries.
More worrying, women and children seem to be taking the brunt of the violence directed by a resurgent Taliban, which will only stoke more concern about the wisdom of seeking reconciliation with the hardline Islamist group.
Indeed the Taliban have been blamed for a series of horrific assaults on women in recent weeks, which must be distasteful to even those pushing for a deal with them as a way to end the nine-year conflict.
A 48-year-old widow was given dozens of lashes in public and then executed for alleged adultery by the insurgents in the northwestern Badghis province on Sunday, according to a Reuters report, citing a provincial police officer. This came hard on the heels of a Time magazine cover picture of an 18-year-old woman allegedly disfigured by the Taliban for trying to flee abuse by her husband.
The UN report, documenting attacks on women and children, makes for equally grim reading. It said that in the first six months of this year, 55 percent more children were killed or wounded by the Taliban and other anti-government groups than in the same period in 2009. The number of women killed or wounded by the Taliban and other insurgents increased by six percent. Here is a PDF of the report.