Taliban fighters with a vehicle on a highway in Afghanistan.
Saibal Das | The India Today Group | Getty Images
The UN special envoy for Afghanistan said Friday that the war in the country had entered a "more deadly and destructive phase" and questioned the Taliban's commitment to a political solution.
"A party that is genuinely committed to a negotiated solution would not risk so many civilian casualties because it would understand that the more blood is shed the more difficult the reconciliation process becomes," Deborah Lyons told the UN Security Council on Friday.
It does so after the number of Afghan civilians rose to more than 1,000 last month and the Taliban continued to make territorial gains in Afghanistan.
Fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces has been raging since April when US and coalition forces began their withdrawal from the country. The payout should be completed this month.
On Friday, the Taliban captured their first provincial capital, Zaranj, in Nimroz province since their offensive began.
The group also killed the Afghan government's chief media officer in Kabul on Friday, just days after attempting to assassinate the country's incumbent defense minister, according to the Associated Press.
The Taliban also control large rural areas of Afghanistan and are now challenging Afghan security forces in several large cities, Lyons said. These include Herat near the western border with Iran and Kandahar and Lashkar Gah in the south, who are "under considerable pressure".
“Attacking urban areas means knowingly inflicting enormous damage and causing massive civilian casualties. Even so, the threat to big cities appears to be a strategic choice by the Taliban, who have accepted the likely slaughter that will follow, ”she said.
The peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban that began last year have made no significant progress, Lyons said.
Lyons added that after the US-Taliban agreement was signed in February, the United Nations expected violence in Afghanistan to decline. Instead, the number of civilian casualties in the country rose by 50% as more cities were attacked by the Taliban.
Afghan citizens "expect far greater commitment and visible support" from the UN Security Council, Lyons said. She urged the Council to issue a statement calling for an end to violence in the country and ensuring "a meaningful peace process".
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also addressed the Taliban's recent attacks at a press conference Friday, saying that their actions would not help them gain international legitimacy.
"In our view, if the Taliban claim to want international legitimacy, these actions will not give them the legitimacy they are looking for," said Psaki.
"You don't have to stay on this path. You can choose to devote the same energy to the peace process as you do to your military campaign."