Last updated: December 2020
Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one.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 https://easo.europa.eu/country-guidance.
Kabul province is located in central Afghanistan and has a population of approximately 5 205 000. The main ethnic groups in Kabul are Tajik, Pashtun and Hazara. The province is divided in 15 districts. It borders Parwan, Kapisa, Laghman, Nangarhar, Logar, and Wardak. Major roads depart from Kabul City and connect the capital with the rest of the country.
In Kabul province, outside of Kabul city, the major insurgent actor were the Taliban, whereas ISKP was primarily active in the provincial capital.
According to LWJ, all districts of Kabul province are categorised as under government control or undetermined.
ACLED collected data on 339 violent events in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 in the province (average of 4.9 incidents per week), of which 172 were coded as ‘battles’, 132 as ‘explosions/remote violence’, and 35 as ‘violence against civilians’.
Examples of incidents include airstrikes by Afghan security forces in Surobi district, killing and wounding Taliban insurgents. There were also reports of security forces as well as civilians being killed in attacks by the Taliban, and reports of explosions, for example attacks on Afghan security forces’ outposts in Surobi district. Roadside attacks occurred in Paghman district, killing security forces and civilians. ISKP is reportedly active and capable of carrying out attacks in Kabul and caused civilian casualties in the province in 2019.
UNAMA documented 1 563 civilian casualties (261 deaths and 1 302 injured) in the province in 2019, representing 30 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was a decrease of 16 % compared to 2018. The leading causes for the civilian casualties were suicide IEDs, followed by (non-suicide) IEDs and targeted killings. The majority of the victims were in Kabul City. In the first half of 2020, UNAMA recorded 338 civilian casualties in Kabul.
According to RS, Kabul province suffered the highest countrywide number of civilian casualties (208) in the first quarter of 2020, also representing the most substantial countrywide increase (151 %) compared to the last quarter of 2019. In the second quarter of 2020, RS recorded over 126 civilian casualties in Kabul province.
In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 27 persons were displaced from Paghman district, to the neighbouring Laghman province. In the same period, 4 062 persons were displaced to the province of Kabul, the majority of them to the capital city. The latter represents a decrease compared to the 10 598 persons displaced to the province in the period 1 January 2018 – 28 February 2019 [Security situation 2019, 2.1].
Focus on the capital: Kabul City
Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan. It is reported that the city, which before 2001 counted 12 wards, expanded to 22 wards as a result of its significant demographic growth and horizontal expansion. Its population is officially reported to be 4 117 414. Kabul City hosts an airport, which is served by international and domestic passenger flights.
The Taliban, including the Haqqani Network, as well as the ISKP are active in the capital. According to LWJ, the Kabul City is considered as under government control or undetermined.
Because of frequent high-profile attacks in the city throughout 2017, the Afghan government announced in August 2017 the development of a new security plan for Kabul, called the ‘Green Belt’. Moreover, a special unit within the Afghan police called the Crisis Response Unit was created, in order to prevent and respond to attacks.
ACLED collected data on 142 violent events in Kabul City in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 2 incidents per week), of which 49 were coded as ‘battles’, 71 as ‘explosions/remote’ violence and 22 as ‘violence against civilians’.
The picture of conflict in Kabul City is characterised by asymmetric tactical warfare, with suicide bombers and IEDs as weapons of attack. The attacks mainly targeted civilians, including the civilian government administration, places of worship, educational facilities, election-related sites, and other ‘soft’ targets. The Taliban strategy in the third quarter of 2019 combined several high-profile attacks in Kabul City with continuous peace negotiations for US troops withdrawal.
Examples of incidents include several attacks by the ISKP which maintained an active cell in Kabul despite a decreased activity of the group in 2019. In June 2020, the UN Security Council reported on a ‘tactical accommodation’ between the Haqqani Network and ISKP in Kabul. According to sources, security concerns in Kabul were not limited to AGEs attacks but also include a significant rise in criminality. Several sources reported on an ineffective police response to Kabul’s rapidly expanding crime scene.
The single most deadly incident documented by UNAMΑ in 2019 was an ISKP-claimed suicide attack on the Dubai City Wedding Hall in August. The ceremony was mainly attended by Shia Muslims, and the attack resulted in 234 civilian casualties. The Taliban also carried out attacks in the capital, killing and wounding civilians. One of the most prominent security incidents occurred in July 2019 during an attack against the Ministry of Defence, which caused a large impact on the surrounding neighbourhoods and resulted in 151 civilian casualties.
After an increase in the first half of 2018, the number of high-profile suicide and complex attacks in Kabul started to decrease from the second half of 2018 and further into 2019. According to the UN Secretary General, this can be attributed to successful interdiction efforts and enhanced security measures by ANSF forces in the capital. As in the rest of the country, violence in Kabul intensified during the third quarter of 2019.
High-profile attacks have become less frequent as the insurgents shifted toward targeted assassinations. An increase in targeted killings was reported in Kabul City. In contrast to previous years, UNAMA documented a 35 % decrease in civilian casualties from sectarian-motivated attacks (mainly attributed to ISKP) in 2019.
No displacement from the capital was recorded in the period 1 March 2019 - 30 June 2020, while during the same period, 4 062 persons were displaced to Kabul district. The IDPs arriving and residing in Kabul add pressure on the community, basic services and social infrastructure, strongly affecting the absorption capacity of the city.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the province of Kabul and in Kabul City, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm within the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.