The first of a series of quarterly reports on the situation in Afghanistan has been issued by the UN Security Council. It covers the period from 9 March this year up to the end of June - a period that saw a 51 per cent increase in security incidents compared to the same period last year. There were 17 suicide attacks in April - a higher number than in any month in 2010.
A quarter of all attacks and more than half of all assassinations took place in the city of Kandahar. The report also provides an account of the attack on a UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif on 1 April during which three international UN staff and four international guards were killed.
It notes the attack in Kandahar on 7 May during which 488 political prisoners - most of them Taliban supporters - escaped. The report takes special note of large demonstrations protesting against ISAF activities: "This kind of civil unrest, which is indicative of wider public discontent, marks a departure from the previous sporadic demonstrations against the international civil and military presence and raises serious concern, given the possibility of orchestrated violent rioting against the international community."
The report's review of political developments attempts to make the most of the very meagre political advances, including the tiny number of former Taliban members signing up for reintegration programmes.
UNAMA documented 1,090 deaths and 1,860 injuries of Afghan civilians during these three months, an increase of 20 per cent on last year, with "anti-government elements" linked to 80 per cent of these casualties. Most people were hit by IED explosions. Pro-government forces also caused damage and deaths to civilians through the use of air strikes and night raids.
The UN's extensive interest in women's rights has not stopped Afghan women from being punished for running away from home to flee persecution or forced marriage. Most women who run away are charged with adultery and the Supreme Court has recently upheld convictions of women victims of rape for the crime of adultery. Women can be sentenced to 15 years in prison if convicted. There are 650 women in prison in Afghanistan, along with 280 minors.
Many journalists in Afghanistan feel threatened, both from the Taliban and from pro-government factions and religious figures. The 16-page report also includes useful information on the transition towards Afghan security responsibility, governance, humanitarian assistance and counter-narcotics. It closes with a statement from the Secretary-General.