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Kunduz has a population of approximately 1 137 000. The main ethnic group in the province are Pashtuns. It is located in northern Afghanistan and is divided in 10 districts. The province borders Takhar, Baghlan, Balkh, and shares an international border with Tajikistan. Kunduz has always been a strategic crossing point. A section of the Asian Highway AH-7 from Kabul passes through the provinces of Parwan and Baghlan and connects Kabul with Kunduz and the border crossing to Tajikistan. The Kunduz-Takhar Highway passes through the district of Khanabad and connects the province with Takhar and Badakhshan.
Strong presence of insurgent groups, especially the Taliban, was reported in almost all parts of Kunduz province. In January 2020, Kunduz was, together with Baghlan, considered to be the most Taliban-controlled or influenced province in the north-eastern region.
According to LWJ, three districts were categorised as under Taliban control; the other districts as contested.
ISKP has reportedly set up bases in the northern provinces of Afghanistan, including in Kunduz. Moreover, an insurgent group called Jabha-ye Qariha, which is known as the military wing of Jundullah, is purportedly active along the Afghan-Tajik border, allied with the Taliban. The presence of foreign fighters in the province was also reported.
ACLED collected data on 629 violent events in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 9 incidents per week), of which 446 were coded as ‘battles’, 153 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and 30 as ‘violence against civilians’.
Most of the violent incidents in the province were armed clashes, with the majority of attacks by the Taliban on Afghan security forces, including PGMs, or attacks on their facilities, such as checkpoints, headquarters, and military bases, as well as on convoys and vehicles. Significant examples include Taliban attacks on the provincial capital at the end of August 2019, with heavy fighting causing 61 civilian casualties. Operations and attacks of Afghan security forces backed by airstrikes also resulted in civilian casualties at times. Incidents where the Taliban or unidentified armed groups used roadside bombs and IEDs to target Afghan and international security forces or government officials as well as incidents of shelling – attributed to both the Taliban and Afghan security forces - have also been reported. Examples of electoral violence included damages on telecommunication towers across Kunduz and rocket attacks on the provincial capital by the Taliban.
Further impact on the civilian population included blocked access to roads and the setup of mobile checkpoints on the Kunduz-Baghlan and Kunduz-Takhar highways by the Taliban. Fighting between AGEs and security forces also impacted humanitarian partners’ access to people in need.
UNAMA documented 492 civilian casualties (141 deaths and 351 injured) in 2019, representing 43 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was an increase of 46 % compared to 2018. Leading causes for the casualties were ground engagements, followed by non-suicide IEDs and airstrikes. In the first half of 2020, UNAMA ranked Kunduz province fifth in terms of civilians most affected by the conflict, documenting 205 civilian casualties in the province.
RS ranked Kunduz in the category of provinces where the number of civilian casualties was between 76 and 100 for the first quarter of 2020, and between 51 and 75 for the second quarter.
In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 31 274 persons were displaced from the province of Kunduz. In addition to the 30 289 people displaced within the province, Kunduz hosted IDPs from Takhar province and in 2020 some from Faryab province.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that ‘mere presence’ in the area would not be sufficient to establish a real risk of serious harm under Article 15(c) QD in the province of Kunduz, however, indiscriminate violence reaches a high level, and, accordingly, a lower level of individual elements is required 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.
Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.20