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Actors of persecution and serious harm



Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one.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

Last updated: December 2020

Risks to which a population of a country or a section of the population is generally exposed do not normally create in themselves an individual threat, which would qualify as serious harm (Recital 35 QD). Generally, persecution or serious harm must take the form of conduct on the part of a third party (Article 6 QD).

According to Article 6 QD, actors of persecution or serious harm include:

Figure 2. Actors of persecution or serious harm.



This section includes guidance concerning some of the main actors of persecution or serious harm in Afghanistan. The list is non-exhaustive.

 The Afghan State actors include members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and other authorities from the three State branches (executive, legislative and judiciary).

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) or Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are comprised of the Afghan National Army (ANA), including the Afghan Border Force, Afghan Air Force, Afghan National Civil Order Force and the recently established Afghan Territorial Army as local security force, the Afghan National Police (ANP),[14] including the Afghan Local Police (ALP)  and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), including the Afghan Special Forces.

Afghan State authorities and their associates are reported to have committed a wide range of human rights violations. Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment by all Afghan security forces have been reported. In addition, the ANP have been involved in extortion and organised crime, in particular near key smuggling routes. Recruitment and sexual exploitation of boys (bacha bazi) committed by Afghan security forces, in particular by the ALP was also observed. Different State agents, such as ministers, governors and ANSF personnel, are reported to have acted beyond the scope of their legal authority. Moreover, police and judicial authorities are susceptible to the influence of powerful individuals.



 A number of pro-government militias (PGMs) continue to fight on the side of the government against the Taliban and ISKP, although the government disbanded militia groups and stopped paying them. Such militias include the Kandahar Strike Force, Paktika’s Afghan Security Guards, the Khost Protection Force, and Shaheen Forces in Paktyia, Paktika and Ghazni provinces.

Pro-government armed groups caused civilian casualties and were responsible for conflict-related abductions, mainly in the context of ground engagements and search operations. There are also long-standing allegations against the Khost Protection Force of extrajudicial killings, torture, beating, and unlawful detentions.



 Anti-government elements:

 The Taliban are considered as the most powerful anti-government group and control large parts of Afghanistan. They position themselves as the shadow government of Afghanistan, and their commission and governing bodies replicate the administrative offices and duties of a typical government. Regarding militant operations, it is a networked insurgency, with strong leadership at the top and decentralised local commanders who can mobilise resources at the district level.

The Taliban are accused of targeted killings, they have also been involved in deliberate targeting of civilians and in both indiscriminate and targeted attacks against civilian objects. They continue to operate parallel justice mechanisms, based on a strict interpretation of the Sharia, leading to executions by shadow courts and punishments deemed to be cruel, inhuman, and degrading. The Taliban have also been reported to use torture against detainees.

 The Haqqani Network is a UN-designated terrorist organisation. It maintains close ties with the Taliban and is described as a powerful faction of the Taliban, while keeping a degree of operational independence. It is believed to be responsible for complex attacks in heavily populated areas of Kabul. The Network reportedly collaborates and keeps close contact with Al Qaeda, despite the US-deal. According to reports, Haqqani and ISKP also work together, including in attacks on the Afghanistan presidential inauguration and an assault on a Sikh temple in Kabul.

 The ISKP is a Salafi-Jihadist organisation and a UN-designated terrorist organisation with operational ties with local groups. The group is responsible for deliberate attacks against civilians, in particular against religious minorities, such as Shia and Sikhs. Prior to its retreat from Nangarhar, caused by campaigns of Afghan and US forces as well as by attacks of the Taliban between September and November 2019, the ISKP was seen as the most resilient and successful affiliate of ISIL outside its core. Cells of the organisation reportedly continue to be present in a number of provinces and other insurgent groups are working directly with them. ISKP’s strategic capability is described as limited in Afghanistan, but ISKP is considered to be capable of mounting attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul, albeit possibly with the tactical accommodation of the Haqqani Network.

 Al Qaeda is a transnational extremist Salafi jihadist organisation and UN-designated terrorist group. Sources indicate that Al Qaeda maintains relations with the Taliban and a limited presence in Afghanistan, carrying out its activities mostly under the umbrella of other AGEs, particularly the Taliban. The organisation claims responsibility for a number of attacks in Afghanistan, leading to ANSF casualties.

 A number of foreign terrorist AGEs and fighters operate in Afghanistan. Main groups located in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan are Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (including a number of loose splinter groups), Jaish-e Momammed and Lashkar-e Tayyiba, which operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban and have been involved in targeted assassinations against government officials and others. There are also several central Asian und Uighur foreign terrorist and militant groups with fighters of Uzbek, Tajik und Turkmen ethnicity that present a significant threat in northern areas of Afghanistan, such as Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (also known as Jundullah), Jamaat Ansarullah Tajikistan, Lashkar-e Islam and The Salafist Group.



 In specific situations, other non-State actors of persecution or serious harm may include clans, tribes, (locally) powerful individuals, the family (e.g. in the case of LGBTIQ persons, ‘honour’ violence) or criminal gangs (e.g. kidnapping for ransom), etc.






[14] The ALP was to be dissolved by September 2020. No further information on its status was available in the COI reports consulted for the purposes of this update. [back to text]