A UN Security Council team due to visit Afghanistan at the weekend must immediately address a "deteriorating rights situation" that has led to the deaths of 1,000 civilians in insurgency-linked unrest this year, Human Rights Watch said on Friday.
The nine-member team, set to arrive on Saturday, should push for compensation for the civilian casualties, the group said.
It also called for action on corruption, warlords with records of abuse, and violence against women.
"The deteriorating human rights situation throughout Afghanistan warrants immediate attention and action by the United Nations," the New York-based watchdog said in an open letter to the mission.
"Human Rights Watch believes the Security Council's upcoming fact-finding mission to Afghanistan can help improve conditions by demonstrating the United Nation's ongoing commitment to the well-being of all Afghans."
Southern Afghanistan had "degenerated into open warfare" since the extremist Taliban launched an insurgency after being toppled from government in 2001.
"This fighting has halted much needed development activity and has reversed some of the modest gains made in the Taliban's absence, such as returning children, particularly girls, to school," the letter said.
Civilians were increasingly at risk with more than 1,000 killed as result of insurgency-related violence this year, some of them in more than 80 suicide bombings, the letter said.
The rampant insecurity had eroded many of the "small gains" for women after the fall of the Taliban, which denied them education or jobs outside the home, and they remained "some of the most suffering on the planet".
It said: "Only 35 percent of school-age girls are in school, but more than 200,000 students, many of them girls, who were in school were deprived of an education in 2006 due to a campaign by anti-government forces targeting teachers, students, and schools."
In areas less affected by the insurgency, Human Rights Watch said there were serious abuses by regional warlords, such as illegal land grabs, intimidation of journalists, and factional and ethnic violence.
The letter urged the UN team to work with the 37 nations contributing to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force tackling the Taliban to create a fund to compensate the scores of victims of ISAF military strikes.
It said the council must press its members to pledge assistance for about 80,000 people the UN said were displaced by the fighting and drought.
It said the council must push for improvements in the rule of law and accountability for abuses, and curbs on violence and discrimination against women and girls.