The United Nations says a record number of Afghan civilians were killed in 2018, blaming the increase on unprecedented suicide bombings by militant groups and air strikes carried out by U.S.-led forces.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said the conflict in Afghanistan killed 3,804 civilians and wounded another 7,189, an 11 percent increase from 2017, in its annual report released on February 24.
The civilian death toll is the highest number since UNAMA began tallying figures in 2009.
The UNAMA report said 2018 "witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations."
According to the report, 63 percent of all civilian casualties were caused by militants -- with the Taliban being blamed for 37 percent of the dead and wounded, the Islamic State (IS) militant group for 20 percent, and other antigovernment groups for 6 percent.
The Afghan government and its U.S. and NATO allies were blamed for 24 percent of the dead and wounded civilians, many of them killed in increased air strikes carried out mostly by international forces.
"For the first time since 2009, UNAMA recorded more than 1,000 civilian casualties from aerial operations," the report said.
The U.S. military said it carried out 6,823 sorties last year in which munitions were fired, the highest number in the last six years.
UNAMA said women and children comprised almost two-thirds of all civilian casualties from aerial operations.
The uptick in violence in 2018 also coincided with a significant increase in the number of deaths caused by the "deliberate targeting of civilians," according to the report, mostly stemming from suicide attacks by the Taliban or the IS group.
At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018, the majority hitting the capital, Kabul.
The report said the Taliban was responsible for 1,751 civilian casualties in 2018, compared to 916 in 2017, while the IS group killed or wounded 2,181 civilians last year -- the highest number ever recorded for the militant groups.
The report's release comes a day before U.S. and Taliban negotiators hold another round of peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the 17-year conflict.
U.S. peace enjoy Zalmay Khalilzad has held a series of direct talks with Taliban negotiators across the Middle East in recent months, raising the prospect of peace.
Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan, called the spiraling number of civilian casualties "deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable."
"It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy," said Yamamoto. "The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting."
Since the UN began documenting civilian casualties 10 years ago, more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in Afghanistan.