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Last updated: December 2020

The common analysis below regarding the degree of indiscriminate violence taking place in the different provinces of Afghanistan combines quantitative and qualitative elements in a holistic and inclusive assessment.

The indicators applied are formulated in reference to the ECtHR judgment in Sufi and Elmi:

(…) first, whether the parties to the conflict were either employing methods and tactics of warfare which increased the risk of civilian casualties or directly targeting civilians; secondly, whether the use of such methods and/or tactics was widespread among the parties to the conflict; thirdly, whether the fighting was localised or widespread; and finally, the number of civilians killed, injured and displaced as a result of the fighting.[40]

These indicators were further developed and adapted in order to be applied as a general approach to assessing the element of ‘indiscriminate violence’, irrespective of the country of origin in question. The security situation in the respective territories is assessed by taking into account the following elements:

Presence of actors in the conflict

This indicator looks into the presence of actors in the conflict in the respective province. In this regard, the assessment of the Long War Journal (LWJ) is taken into account. The source relies on primary data and research based on open-source information, such as press reports and information provided by government agencies, including the Resolute Support Mission / Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) assessment, and by the Taliban. The definitions applied by the LWJ are as follows:

Contested’ district may mean that the government may be in control of the district centre, but little else, and the Taliban controls large areas or all of the areas outside of the district centre.

Controlled’ district may mean the Taliban is openly administering a district, providing services and security, and also running the local courts.

Unconfirmed’ district means that some level of claim-of-control is made by the Taliban, but either has not yet been - or cannot be - independently verified by LWJ research.

Districts are also defined as ‘under government control or undetermined’ in line with the LWJ assessment.

This indicator also refers to the reported presence of other insurgent groups, such as ISKP, Haqqani Network, etc.

The presence of Afghan security forces and their international allies is not systematically mentioned under this indicator. However, examples of incidents often refer to their activities in the province.

 Nature of methods and tactics

Some methods and tactics used in an armed conflict are by their nature more indiscriminate than others and create a more substantial risk for civilians. Therefore, information on these is particularly relevant in the assessment of risk under Article 15(c) QD.

Under this indicator, the sections below outline the leading causes of civilian casualties recorded by UNAMA. In addition, examples of incidents are provided as illustration of the methods and tactics used by the actors present in the province. It should be underlined that these examples are only for illustrative purposes and are by no means exhaustive or conclusive.

○  Number of incidents

The number of security incidents is an important indicator, pointing to the intensity of hostilities in a certain area. In relation to this indicator, data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) is consistently presented per province.

ACLED collects data on several types of violent incidents in Afghanistan: battles, violence against civilians, explosions/remote violence, riots, protests, and strategic developments. Each incident is coded with the time and place, type of violent incident, the parties involved, and the number of fatalities. The COI summaries per governorate within this common analysis focus in particular on the number of incidents coded as follows:

 Battles: violent clashes between at least two armed groups.
Battles can occur between armed and organised state, non-state, and external groups, and in any combination therein. Subevents of battles are armed clashes, government regains territory and non-state actor overtakes territory. The subevent type ‘armed clash’ occurs when ‘armed, organised groups engage in a battle, and no reports indicate a change in territorial control’.
 Explosions/remote violence: events where an explosion, bomb or other explosive device was used to engage in conflict.
They include one-sided violent events in which the tool for engaging in conflict creates asymmetry by taking away the ability of the target to engage or defend themselves and their location. They include air / drone strikes, suicide bombs, shelling / artillery / missile attack, remote explosive / landmine / IED, grenade, chemical weapon.
  Violence against civilians: violent events where an organised armed group deliberately inflicts violence upon unarmed non-combatants.
‘Violence against civilians’ includes attempts at inflicting harm (e.g. beating, shooting, torture, rape, mutilation, etc.) or forcibly disappearing (e.g. kidnapping and disappearances) civilian actors.

For further information on the data, see Security situation 2020, Sources.

In order to provide an indication of the relative intensity of incidents, the number of security incidents is furthermore presented as a weekly average for the reporting period.

 Geographical scope

This indicator looks into how spread the violence is and whether it affects the whole of the province or certain parts of it. The general approach under this section is to provide assessment at province level. Some information on district level is provided within the sub-sections and may be taken into account for further analysis. [41] Certain districts are, for example, mentioned in relation to reported security incidents, as well as under further impact on the civilian population.

The accessibility of the area should also be taken into account.

In general, a differentiation can be made in the security situation in rural and urban areas, particularly with regard to provincial capitals. In June 2020, USDOS reported that the Afghan government maintained its control in ‘Kabul, provincial capitals, major population centres, most district centres, and most portions of major ground lines of communications’. While the urban areas, including the bigger cities, continue to experience insurgent attacks, it can be noted that the nature of incidents often differs.

For some provinces, and in particular Kabul, Herat, and Balkh, the situation in the capital cities is specifically addressed.

 Civilian casualties

This is considered a key indicator when assessing (the level of) indiscriminate violence in the context of Article 15(c) QD.

The two main sources used are referred to under this indicator.

For 2019, reference is made to the number of civilian casualties reported by UNAMA. It is further weighted by the estimated population in the province and presented as ‘number of civilian casualties per 100 000 inhabitants’, rounded to the nearest whole number. [42]

For the first half of 2020, the COI summaries refer to the categorisation of provinces by number of civilian casualties reported per quarter by RS. In addition, the number of civilian casualties reported by UNAMA is included, where available.


This indicator refers to conflict-induced (internal) displacement from and within the province, as well as to the province or a city, where relevant.

In addition to the indicators above, some examples of further impact of the armed conflicts on the life of civilians are mentioned and taken into account in the assessment.

None of the indicators above would be sufficient by itself to assess the level of indiscriminate violence and the risk it creates for the civilian population in a particular area. Therefore, a holistic approach has been applied, taking into account all different elements.
It should, furthermore, be noted that the COI used as a basis for this assessment cannot be considered a complete representation of the extent of indiscriminate violence and its impact on the life of civilians. Concerns with regard to underreporting should be underlined.


[40] Sufi and Elmi, para.241. [back to text]
[41]  A note should be made that in the absence of an official list of districts, in principle the administrative divisions of the provinces used by UNOCHA are followed, in line with the Security situation 2020 report. In some instances, the text refers to ‘unofficial’ districts (created before 2004 by the previous government, often by splitting existing districts) and ‘temporary’ districts (approved after the entry into force of the Constitution in 2004 by the President due to security or other considerations, but not yet approved by the Parliament). [back to text]
[42]  These calculations are based on the exact number of inhabitants according to official estimates, while the approximate population numbers cited in the summaries are rounded to the nearest 1 000. [back to text]