London, Aug.1 : Over a hundred aid agencies have claimed that Afghanistan could be heading back to Taliban rule, given the unprecedented numbers of civilian casualties and terror attacks in areas that were once thought safe.
"There has been a surge in the number of civilian casualties caused by all sides, a spread of insecurity to previously stable areas, and increasing attacks on aid agencies and their staff," The Independent quoted a statement from their umbrella organisation ACBAR, as saying.
ACBAR represents 64 international aid groups with projects inside the warring country, including Oxfam, Mercy Corps and Save the Children, as well as 36 Afghan charities.
There are almost 53,000 NATO-led troops spread across Afghanistan, trying to boost security while, "paving the way for reconstruction and effective governance".
But the Acbar report states: "So far this year, the number of insurgent attacks, bombings and other violent incidents is up by approximately 50 per cent on the same period last year. The number of insurgent attacks for each of the months of May (463), June (569) and July is greater than the number of such attacks in any other month since the end of major hostilities following the international intervention in 2001."
In Helmand, where most of Britain's troops are based, the figures are even grimmer. The UK lost 13 soldiers in June, more than three times the attrition rate in the same period last year. They have already lost 28 soldiers this year and 114 since the US-led invasion in 2001. The statement continues: "This year, 2,500 people have reportedly lost their lives in the conflict and whilst exact figures are not yet available, this could include up to 1,000 civilians.
"According to initial estimates, there have been more than 260 civilian casualties in July of this year, higher than any other month in the past six years."
The report blames the Taliban insurgents for roughly two-thirds of the civilian casualties, but adds: "The increased number of air strikes by international military forces, which are up by approximately 40 per cent on last year, has also contributed to the rising civilian death toll."
Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, has repeatedly warned international troops those killing innocent civilians risks eroding their fragile popular mandate. Last summer he branded the number of civilian casualties and arbitrary house searches "unacceptable".
Last month he ordered an investigation after reports that 15 civilians died in a US air strike.
The statement points to increased Taliban activity across the country. In the most volatile southern and eastern parts, the report warned, "insurgents are mounting an increasingly vigorous, systematic terror campaign".
Aleem Siddique, a UN spokesman in Afghanistan, said: "The humanitarian challenge in Afghanistan continues to grow. In the past six months alone, criminal gangs have attacked 12 UN humanitarian convoys, resulting in the loss of food for thousands of the poorest families."