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Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one. The latest versions of country guidance documents are available at /country-guidance.

Last updated: December 2020

[Security situation 2020, 1]

A US-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001, but the conflict in Afghanistan continued. After a fallback in the south and east, the Taliban reorganised and began to increase their presence in other provinces by 2006. From 2010 onwards, the Taliban-led insurgency spread into all regions of Afghanistan. Insurgent violence intensified in the run-up to the presidential elections in 2014. Since then, security has sharply deteriorated across Afghanistan.

On 29 February 2020, the US and the Taliban signed an agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan. After signing the deal, the Taliban almost immediately resumed and intensified attacks against ANSF. In response to these attacks, ANSF also resumed their operations against the Taliban. Widespread fighting between the ANSF and Taliban is reportedly taking place in various provinces of the country. Fighting between ANSF and other AGEs is also reported [Security situation 2020, 1.3].

An overview of the most important actors who may have been involved in excludable acts during this period is given below:

The Afghan Government and pro-government forces

Unlawful and arbitrary arrests, intentional killings, and summary executions by ANSF are reported, targeting particularly members or suspected members of AGEs and their families. ANA and NDS are also responsible for indiscriminate airstrikes causing civilian casualties [State structure, 2.1; Security situation 2020, 1.3.5].

The use of torture and other ill-treatment during detention are reported from all ANSF facilities, particularly in prisons under the command of NDS in which torture is described as common and systematic practice [State structure, 2.1, 3.6].

Cases of sexual abuse and exploitation of boys, including the practice of bacha bazi perpetrated by members of the ANSF and pro-government militias are reported, as well as child recruitment or use of children in combat or in support role, especially within the ANP and the ALP [State structure, 2.1.1-2.1.3].

Despite the efforts of the government to fight against corruption, it remains a widespread phenomenon in Afghanistan, especially within the ANSF (ANP and ALP are perceived as the most corrupt forces), the judicial system, and some ministries, such as the MoI. Excludable acts reported includes extortion, bribery and embezzlement [State structure, 1.8, 2.1.2, 2.1.3, 3.4].

Anti-Government Elements

[Anti-government elements, 2.6, 3.5, 3.6., 4; Security situation 2020, 1.4]

In recent years, AGEs continued to cause the majority of civilian casualties through indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of civilians, typically using IEDs [Security situation 2020, 1.3.2]. Exclusion considerations could be relevant with regard to (former) members of all AGEs (Taliban, ISKP and other insurgent groups).

The Taliban have a hierarchical organisation with strong leadership operating a parallel government structure (‘shadow government’) across Afghanistan. They controlled large parts of Afghanistan and committed excludable acts in every province. They are involved in abductions, targeted killings, indiscriminate and deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian objects. The Taliban consider foreign troops and those who work closely with them (some of the ANSF, interpreters, spies, and contractors) to be top priority targets. Other primary targets remain ANSF and government officials or employees, including their families or those perceived as supporting the government. In areas under their control, the Taliban have established a parallel justice system to handle civil and criminal disputes. Punishments enforced by the Taliban parallel justice system include summary execution, mutilation and stoning to death [Anti-government elements, 2.5, 2.6; Criminal law and customary justice, 1.8, 2.3.3].

ISKP, a UN-designated terrorist organisation in Afghanistan, appeared in late 2014 or early 2015. It first appeared in Nangarhar, and some cells are reported in Kunar, Herat and Kabul City, as well as even smaller groups in Nuristan, Helmand, Kapisa, Baghlan and Faryab. They used indiscriminate and deliberate suicide attacks to target Shia Muslims and other religious minorities like Sikhs, but also government officials and civilians. They also practice summary executions, including through beheadings. ISKP are suspected to receive assistance by the Haqqani Network to plan and carry out high profile attacks [Anti-government elements, 3.2, 3.5, 3.6].

Other insurgent groups such as the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda and foreign AGEs are often linked with either the Taliban or ISKP and it is sometimes difficult to distinguish their acts from those of the Taliban or ISKP. The Haqqani Network is mostly active in southern provinces (Paktya, Khost, Kandahar and Helmand). Al Qaeda fighters have been reported in 12 provinces (Badakhshan, Ghazni, Helmand, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Nimroz, Nurstan, Paktya and Zabul). Foreign AGEs can be found in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan for the Pakistan-affiliated AGEs, and in the northern provinces of Zabul, Faryab, Takhar for Uzbek and Turkmen groups [Anti-government elements, 4.1, 4.2, 4.3].

All AGEs recruited children to use them in combat or in support roles during the conflict [Anti-government elements, 2.4.1, 3.4, 4].