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Callier food column: A taste of the Roaring Fork Valley’s Italian connection

Buon cibo is “good food” in Italian. To Italians, it can also mean so much more. While Italy feels so far away from us here in the Roaring Fork Valley, To Italians, it can also mean so much more.

While Italy feels so far away from us here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we are still deeply connected. Northern Italians were among the first wave of migrants who tamed this land.There were no highways, and railroads were considered state-of-the-art travel, but these settlers persevered and established themselves for generations. Their culture, work ethic and cuisine have helped create our local identity.

I am one of their descendants. My great-great-grandparents, Jeremie and Cecile Gerbaz, brought their eight children to Woody Creek from Detroit.The couple originally immigrated from a tiny village in northern Italy called Doues.They settled near Aspen and put their boys to work on their new ranch.Life was surely difficult for them, but they thrived there. Their children would go on to be county commissioners and successful ranchers.They even have a road named after them in Woody Creek.During the hard times and the good, they used food to bring the family together.
Like many large families, there were certain rivalries between siblings, but these could be put aside over wine and the breaking of bread. The winters were difficult, but the summer could be bountiful.They raised potatoes and other crops that would sustain them during the long, cold months. Polenta was a staple that I even ate while growing up.
I have always been told that northern Italians loved it so much here, because it reminded them of home. I never knew this to be true until I visited their old village, Doues, in Italy.The village is in a valley called Valle d’Aosta, which is an alpine paradise. It is nestled in the Alps and is close to Switzerland and France.The valley is heavily influenced by French, Italian and Swiss cultures. One can see these influences everywhere, from language, clothing, architecture and cuisine.
The cuisine of the region is known best for its strong and rich ingredients of polenta, potatoes, cheese, meat and more meat. Did I mention cheese? The region also produces fontina which is a creamy cow’s milk cheese, with a mild, earthy flavor with a touch of honey sweetness.It is delicious and great for melting. Fontina makes wonderful fondue, which is a regional speciality.They also have the best pizzas served in remote huts and shanties. I have been lucky enough to visit Val d’Aosta.I have distant relatives there who have stayed in touch with the American family, and they graciously invited me to their home in Doues. The area is idyllic like a pastoral dream.

Ancient villages line the valley all the way to Switzerland. The back of the Mater Horn presides over the area, and the Alps rise at impossible angles.Not only is the landscape indelible, but the food is sublime.Eating dinner is an act of grace and communion and always taken seriously.Every meal is intimate and can last hours. Supper usually begins with a light salad and several strong aperitifs.From there, it progresses to a soup, first course, second course and dessert. Wine is mandatory throughout, and a digestif and espresso are served with dessert.It is considered rude to refuse food or not clean a plate. I never had that issue, but I did cry once in a bathroom, because I feared I couldn’t eat or drink anymore.We must not forget our ancestral connections and how they still shape us.

Recipes tell tales of our struggles and triumphs, and these are my family’s stories.All recipes accompany this story.Apple Fritters(Serves four people)These are served as an appetizer.The apples must be cut small enough to cook quickly and evenly, while the breading browns. After flipping them in the frying pan, make sure to gently press down with spatula.They are slightly sweet, so they can also make a light dessert.Ingredients1 egg1/2 cup milk1/2 cup beer1 cup flour1 teaspoon sugar3 apples, sliced or cubedpinch of lemon peel, gratedpinch of saltoil for fryingDirections1.In a medium bowl, stir together egg, milk, beer, flour and salt into a smooth batter.2.
Add apples to batter and stir until coated. Let mixture stand for about 30 minutes.3. Heat oil in frying pan over medium-high heat.Drop spoonfuls of mixture and fry until both sides are golden. Serve immediately.
La Favo(Serves four people)This is a classic pasta, tomato sauce and white bean dish. You can also use fresh fava beans, but they require extra prep time.

They are ideal with short cut pasta such as ditalini, but I had a hard time finding that type. Instead, I used the “Italian Trottole” that I like so much.To experiment, you could add a splash of red wine, garlic or other kinds of creamy cheeses for different flavor possibilities. Ingredients16 ounces short cut pasta1 can northern beans6 ripe tomatoes, crushed1 can tomatoes, crushed1 shallot4 slices Italian Bread, cubed1/4 cup butter4 tablespoons butter1/2 cup Fontina cheese, sliced thinlyDirections1.Drain beans and save liquid separately. 2.Cut shallots into pieces and melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in shallots and cook until shallots are soft and transparent.
Add crushed tomatoes and bring to boil. Turn heat down and simmer.3. Cook the pasta in water and drained liquid from beans until pasta is al dente.4. Drain pasta and add to the tomato sauce, and stir in the beans.

Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.5.Fry the cubed bread in a pan with butter until bread is golden and crispy. 6.Stir fontina cheese into pasta until melted. Top with toasted bread cubes and serve immediately.
Frecacha(Serves four people)Frecacha is a fancy way of seeing meat and potatoes. Be sure not to over boil the potatoes, as they need to hold up while you simmer all ingredients together for an hour.The cinnamon and nutmeg make this more exotic than average mean and potatoes dishes. Use those with caution.Cooking time can vary, depending on how soupy you prefer. Ingredients2 large white onions2 large potatoes, boiled and cold14 ounces beef round steak2 tablespoons butter1 tablespoon salt4 cups beef stockpinch of pepper, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon powder Directions 1.Boil potatoes in a large pot for 25 minutes. Remove from water and cool.2. Slice the onions and cook in butter over medium-high heat until they are soft and transparent.3. Cut beef and potatoes into slices and add to the pot of onions.Sauté over medium-high heat for about five minutes.4.Stir in beef stock and bring to a boil. Cover and cook on a low heat for about an hour.Stir in salt and spices. Add more to taste, as needed.Serve after fluid has browned and reduced. EntertainmentDeVotchKa goes back to its roots at The TemporaryMarch 21, 2019Buon cibo is “good food” in Italian.To Italians, it can also mean so much more. While Italy feels so far away from us here in the Roaring Fork Valley, we are still deeply connected.

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Master of abstract painting: Meet Ahmet Özel

As an artist who has reflected the individual human journey on his canvases in an abstract style for many years, Ahmet Özel scrutinizes his own,The city was alive like a busy market in those times, and many American cars road the streets.
Back then, a high school teenager was getting out of Kabataş High School, where he was educated and walking to the coastal town of Fındıklı where his greatest delight was catching fish. However, he did not know that he was catching fish in the garden of the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts, now known as the Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University.One day, he left the garden and stepped inside the huge building behind him. Once he entered, he was mesmerized by an exhibition on display.
He could not understand for a few minutes why these works of art were here, but then learned that it was the famous Turkish art academy.That high school boy was gifted artist Ahmet Özel, and this was his first meeting with the Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts, founded by renowned Turkish painting artist Osman Hamdi Bey as the first fine arts educational institution in Turkey.Özel does not come from an artistic family. He was the son of a migrant family that tried to sustain their lives under difficult conditions.
But there was one sure thing: He had a talent for painting. Everyone thought him talented but no one directed him to a career in this field.It was his first meeting with the academy that motivated and encouraged him. Thereafter, Özel decided to receive an education in its magical atmosphere.He was not well prepared but took the entrance exams. As you can imagine, he succeeded and entered the world of painting.Even if his first brush stroke on canvas was a chance, he took firm steps toward painting and became one of the most productive Turkish artists. I interviewed him concerning his latest exhibition “İç Güneş” (“Inner Sun”), which opened March 16 at Gallery Diani and on display until April 6, I found myself in an intense conversation in a minute.I was looking at a wise man with a cultural and informational accumulation of years. The more he talked, the more I became curious about his art and his perspective.
I learned the aforementioned details about his finding art and then wanted to hear about his style and themes. Before coming to the interview, I saw on the Internet that art critic Ruşen Eşref Yılmaz praised Özel’s works.He said, “The painting of Ahmet Özel is a whole of polysemic phenomenon that implies the existence of human beings as part of the cosmic universe.” While Özel was talking about his themes, his words reminded me of Yılmaz’s comment.Özel was really into the individual journey of humans. He said that he focused on figures in his paintings until the ’90s.Then, he inclined to the theme of the sky. Özel evaluates this inclination as a concept that developed in him to understand the universe and creation.
The artist, then, started to reflect meteors on his canvas. These meteors turned into angels and mother figures and finally light.
However, Özel highlights that he always scrutinized the creation of the universe and human beings with an intuition-based dialect and reflected it isolated from time and space in a mythological dimension with mystical arrangements.Daily Sabah’s Irem Yaşar (R) with Ahmet Özel at Gallery Diani.Noting that he always begins to paint without any preparation, Özel sees his works as a mirror to himself. He stressed that the only thing that he tries to do in his job is to reflect what he has inside.
Performing his talent extemporaneously, he said: “I do not like to transfer something that has been completed in my mind. I like the improvisational process of painting.I do not want to destroy the excitement that it gives me.”Admiration for BruegelAs I saw his attachment to his art with such a deep desire while he was talking, my interest in learning about his ideas and feelings about famous artists increased.I could not wait and asked about figures that he admired. After this question, his eyes sparkled.The artist waited for a second and said that he is really moved especially by one artist’s work although there are many others that he admires. This work was the Dutch Renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel’s “The Blind Leading the Blind” (aka “The Parable of the Blind”).
He said that he made a copy of this work during his academy years, and this painting became his source of inspiration as of that day. “Even if people do not know that, this painting stays as a frame in all of my productions,” he emphasized.
At that very moment, Gallery Diani’s founder Telga Südor Mendi interrupted the conversation with similar excitement. She said that she attended the comprehensive exhibition that the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna has organized to mark the 450th anniversary of the death of Pieter Bruegel.Common interests Özel is an artist who sees himself as a part of society. For him, artists should not be considered leaders or pioneers.Therefore, I can assure you that you will witness the modesty of the artist at “İç Güneş” as well as the perfect brush strokes and the deep meanings behind the paintings, where you will accompany his own life epiphany through the abstract elements on display.

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Huawei Sues US Government Over Ban on Its Products

Chinese telecoms equipment maker Huawei Technologies on Thursday confirmed it is suing the US government over a section of a defence bill passed into law last year that restricted its business in the United States.
“The US Congress has repeatedly failed to produce any evidence to support its restrictions on Huawei products.We are compelled to take this legal action as a proper and last resort,” Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping said in a statement.”This ban not only is unlawful, but also restricts Huawei from engaging in fair competition, ultimately harming US consumers.We look forward to the court’s verdict, and trust that it will benefit both Huawei and the American people.””Lifting the NDAA ban will give the US Government the flexibility it needs to work with Huawei and solve real security issues,” Guo said.
In its lawsuit, Huawei said its “equipment and services are subject to advanced security procedures, and no backdoors, implants, or other intentional security vulnerabilities have been documented in any of the more than 170 countries in the world where Huawei equipment and services are used.”The privately owned firm has embarked on a public relations and legal offensive as Washington lobbies allies to abandon Huawei when building 5G mobile networks, centring on a 2017 Chinese law requiring companies cooperate with national intelligence work.
Founder and Chief Executive Ren Zhengfei No proof,The NDDA bans the US government from doing business with Huawei or compatriot peer ZTE Corp or from doing business with any company that has equipment from the two firms as a “substantial or essential component” of their system.In its lawsuit, filed in US District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, Huawei argues that the section of the law is illegal because it could sharply limit the company’s ability to do business in the United States despite no proof of wrongdoing.
Separately, the lawsuit also alleges that Huawei has been denied due process and that Congress, by stripping Huawei of US commercial opportunities, has violated the “separation of powers” portion of the constitution by doing the work of the courts.UPHILL BATTLE:Some legal experts, however, said Huawei’s lawsuit is likely to be dismissed because US courts are reluctant to second-guess national security determinations by other branches of government.The lawsuit “will be an uphill battle because Congress has broad authority to protect us from perceived national security threats,” said Franklin Turner, a government contracts lawyer at McCarter English.In November 2018, a federal appeals court rejected a similar lawsuit filed by Russian cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, which was challenging a ban on the use of the company’s software in US government networks.
The Texas court hearing Huawei’s case will not be bound by that decision, but will likely adopt its reasoning because of the similarities in the two disputes, said Steven Schwinn, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago.”I don’t see how (Huawei) can really escape that result,” said Schwinn.Retribution:The legal action and public relations outreach compare with a more restrained response in December emphasising “trust in justice” when its chief financial officer, Sabrina Meng Wanzhou, was arrested in Vancouver at US request.The United States has accused Meng – Ren’s daughter – of bank and wire fraud related to breaches of trade sanctions against Iran.
Meng appeared in court on Wednesday during which her lawyer expressed concern that the allegations have a political character, raising US President Donald Trump’s comments on the case.Separately, Meng, who is fighting extradition, is suing Canada’s government for procedural wrongs in her arrest.The case had strained relations with China, which this week accused two arrested Canadians of stealing state secrets in a move widely seen as retribution for Meng’s arrest.While Meng is under house arrest in Vancouver, it is unclear where the two Canadians are being detained in China.Sources previously told Reuters that at least one of the Canadians did not have access to legal representation.Change of tuneRen met international media for the first time in several years in mid-January, calling US President Donald Trump “great” and refraining from commenting directly on Meng’s case.Shifting tone, Ren in mid-February said Meng’s arrest was politically motivated and “not acceptable”.Long before Trump initiated a trade war with China, Huawei’s activities were under scrutiny by US authorities, according to interviews with 10 people familiar with the Huawei probes and documents related to the investigations seen by Reuters.

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Raise a Glass to the Arts

One way they are doing this is by having art expositions within their corridors. As its name reveals, Arts Club started this trend in “attempts to attract.As its name reveals, Arts Club started this trend in “attempts to attract more clients,” said Arts Club Promoter Manuel Laparte.
“Before the crisis, people would go out more frequently,” said Carlos Lopez, marketing coordinator and Madrileno. “However, even after this country recuperated, there was a change with how the Spanish started to spend their money when going out.” Where bars are as abundant as people’s expectations, the addition of local art expositions help set them apart from the many options Madrid city-goers have to choose from. As you enter inside Arts Club, the entrance walls are lined with mismatching seats and round, dark wooden tables.
Looking up you can catch a glance of Mexican artist Aurora Covarrubias’ latest exposition. Inspired by the fast-pace life Madrid has to offer, along with her Mexican heritage,  her pieces display bottles of tequila and mezcal.Almost every piece displays something pink, weather it be lips, a bottle, pants or even the American $100 bill, which was transformed into a long, hot pink canvas.Expositions like Covarrubias’ allow not only for her to gain publicity, but also attract more people to the venue.“Killing two birds with one stone,” said Covarrubias. Many of the night goers that stop upon Arts Club, are coming to actually see her exposition.They get this information from social media platforms such as Instagram, through hashtags.While Arts Club might have been the first venue in Madrid to start the trend of art expositions, other, smaller bars around the city have quickly caught wind of this.In Malasana, the more hipster barrio of Madrid, a few bars have also caught on to this trend. On Calle Valverde 24 lies Verbena Bar, a much more casual place of leisure, considering they also open for breakfast.
Here, 20-something hipsters of all nationalities can be observed sipping on iced lattes, freshly squeezed juice and tea.Upon walking into Verbena Bar, you can observe an illuminated, long venue.astel colored liners hang from one end of the roof to the other side. Along the cream colored walls are hundreds of watercolor paintings, original drawings and old photographs placed in mismatched frames which oddly match the mismatched furniture.While indulging in typical Spanish tapas, like tortilla and patatas bravas with a Cold Doble of Mahou, one is surrounded by the hard work of local Madrileno artists. One of many examples amongst this venue’s walls is the small square canvas, which is a copy of Frida Kahlo.The brushstrokes paint her red dress like velvet and her thick brown eyebrows seem almost life like. Other places of the moment such as La Fabrica have also taken this trend and ran with it.
Open seven days a week, this small coffee shop, no larger than 400 square meters, has begun to expose contemporary art. However, along with this, they also have a library filled with photography books.Currently, amongst the white walls of La Fabrica is Marc Chagalls contemporary exposition, on loan from the Museo Guggenheim of Bilbao, Spain. The European Vanguard exposition reveals pieces from the Interwar period, a time when Spain was going through a civil war.This contemporary exposition, is “rival of Picasso’s Guernica in the Reina Sofia, and worthy of visiting,” said Vera Mateus, visitor to La Fabrica.“Everyone has a curious side,” said Manuel Laparte.“And most importantly, the young people of Madrid want to be and feel the now.” Like previously mentioned, art expositions give a variety of venues the opportunity to expose up-and-coming artists to the public, while simultaneously allowing them to attract more customers.
It turns out that young people relate better to art while sipping on Spanish beer and gin and tonics. This is extremely important considering that in Spain, “almost half of Spanish artists do not not make it to 8,000 euros a year,” according to a Spanish study by Lamono.This exposure helps many struggling, up-and-coming artists gain publicity and recognition.However, there is another side to this coin.It also allows for art to spread in the capital of Spain, in a time where less and less young people are visiting traditional sources of art such as museums. A study conducted by La Caixa undercovered that only around only “22% of Spanish men and women between the ages of 16-29 had visited a museum.”“Just because some people don’t understand art, doesn’t mean it is irrelevant,” Aurora Covarrubias said. “The past, present and future need an outlet, in this logical world.”

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Talks with Taliban in Doha productive: US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad

US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on Thursday said the latest talks with Taliban in Doha were “productive”. Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between Khalilzad met with the Taliban’s top political leader in Doha starting Monday, in what is believed to be the highest level engagement between the US and the Taliban since the months-long peace push began.
Khalilzad had on February 25 tweeted that he and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had held a “working lunch” ahead of a fresh round of talks with the insurgent group as the US seeks a way out of its longest war.”Both sides will take the next two days for internal deliberations, with plans to regroup on Saturday.
All four key issues remain on the table,” he added.In another tweet, Khalilzad said, “As talks continue in Doha, there is also progress on forming a national team in Kabul ready to engage in intra-Afghan dialogue and talks with the Taliban.
“Marathon talks last month saw the two sides walk away with a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a haven for international terror groups.There was no accord on a US withdrawal or a ceasefire, however, issues which have derailed attempts at peace talks in the past, while the government in Kabul has voiced increasingly loud fears it was being sidelined from the talks.
The latest negotiations came as violence soars in Afghanistan, with the UN reporting Sunday that more civilians were killed in 2018 than any other year since records began in 2009.US President Donald Trump has signalled his eagerness to end his country´s involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.
Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.

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You can tell a lot about a society and the culture by the people whom it venerates as heroes. Not so

You can tell a lot about a society and the culture by the people whom it venerates as heroes. Not so long ago in the United States military valor and not so long ago in the United States military valor and other feats of physical and patriotic derring do were the ne plus ultra of what determined who became venerated.
Thats why the crime of stolen valor is there in the first place, by men (and sometimes women) who arent veterans who want to bask in the glory and respect afforded actual heroes. Were American warriors not heroes, there would be no valor to steal.But now were witnessing something altogether different. You could call it stolen victimhood.The pathetic and outrageous case of Jussie Smollett is the latest example of this baleful trend.Not long ago, Mr.Smollett was a modestly successful television actor in a modestly successful television show called Empire. Outside of the shows hardcore fan base, he was hardly a household name.
Mr. Smollett shot to fame (you might call it stolen fame) in late January not because of anything he accomplished but because of something that was done to him.Or so he said.The tale bears telling one more time for what it says about the credulity of those we are now electing to high office.
He said he was set upon by two men in the middle of a frigid night in Chicago while innocently walking home from a sandwich shop. Two hooligans, said to have been of the white persuasion, recognized him, beat him up, poured bleach on him, put a noose around his neck, and shouted this is MAGA country! and slurs against his homosexual inclination, though how they could tell he was a gay caballero was not explained.
The assailants, though hooligans, nevertheless showed a certain bravery (if not foolish judgment) by wandering around a rough neighborhood in the middle of the night in Republican regalia with a noose in hand, looking for stray gays.Chicago, including the upscale neighborhoods, gave Donald Trump less than 20 percent of their vote in 2016, making it hardly a neighborhood to be campaigning for Donald Trump.
Mr. Smolletts tale was riven with more holes than a wheel of Swiss cheese, but the ever credulous Kamala Harris and other prominent Democrats could not wait to join the action.The senator from California, auditioning for president of the United States, called the fictitious attack a modern day lynching. She erased her message when it became clear that she had been taken in by a tall tale, demonstrating, we suppose, that even a speaker of the House can suffer shame.
Mr. Smollett was strangely unco-operative with the Chicago police.Still clutching the sandwich that survived the attack, he refused to hand over the cellphone he had used during his beating, and took refuge in stolen victimhood. It became a thing of like, Oh, Its not necessarily that you dont believe that this is the truth, he said several days later, You dont even want to see the truth.
If I had said it was a Muslim, or a Mexican, or someone black, I feel like the doubters would have supported me a lot much more. A lot more.And that says a lot about the place that we are in our country. Indeed.
Empire became Law and Order. It emerged that Mr.Smollett actually paid two Nigerian men he knew from the set of his television program to stage the attack. He had sent himself the threatening letter in advance of the attack.
He has been charged with a felony for filing a false police report. He is said to have done it because he wasnt being paid what he thought he was worth.
Perhaps he thought he was staging a scene from his TV show on behalf of underpaid Americans everywhere.Hate hoaxes have occurred lately elsewhere, from waiters forging racist notes to leave on restaurant tables to the infamous rape hoax at the University of Virginia.Playing the victim only works in an ailing society that holds up victimhood as the gold standard of fraudulent behavior.Click here for reprint permission.The Washington Times Comment PolicyThe Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider.

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Civilian deaths in Afghan war hit record in 2018

KABUL: More civilians were killed in the Afghan war in 2018 than during any other year on record after nearly two decades of fighting, according to a UN report released Sunday.
The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides 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 insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.”The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.
An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.
The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban — has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.
Civilian deaths jumped by 11 percent from 2017 with 3,804 people killed and another 7,189 wounded, according to the UN figures, as suicide attacks and bombings wreaked havoc across the war-torn country.The report’s release comes a day before the US and the Taliban hold their next round of talks aimed at ending the conflict, raising tentative hopes for peace along with fears that an American withdrawal could spark an even bloodier civil war.
The talks in Doha follow years of escalating violence in Afghanistan. According to the UN, at least 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded in the last decade when the organisation began compiling the data.
The uptick in violence in 2018 coincides 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 insurgents allied with the Taliban or Islamic State (IS).”It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the head of the UN mission in Afghanistan.
“The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting,” he said. At least 65 suicide attacks were recorded in 2018 — the majority hitting Kabul — with militants responsible for the death of more than 2,200 civilians across the country.An increase in air strikes by US and Afghan forces also led to more civilian deaths in 2018, with more than 500 civilians killed by “aerial operations for the first time on record”, the report noted.The US intensified its air campaign against Taliban and IS fighters as Washington seeks to pile pressure on the militants, dropping twice as many munitions on insurgent positions in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Yamamoto said the civilian casualties were “wholly unacceptable” and called on all parties to take “immediate and additional concrete steps to stop a further escalation in the number of civilians harmed and lives destroyed”.Afghanistan has suffered nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.The escalating violence comes as US President Donald Trump has been pushing to end US involvement in Afghanistan, where 14,000 American troops are still deployed.Marathon talks held in Doha in January sparked hopes of a breakthrough after the two sides agreed to a “draft framework” that included a Taliban vow to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a safe haven for international terror groups.But US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad — who is leading the American side negotiating with the Taliban  has emphasised that any troop withdrawal would depend on conditions on the ground. Critics remain skeptical of the talks for a number of reasons, primarily because they have not yet included the Afghan government, which the Taliban considers US-backed puppets.

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