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Please note that this country guidance document has been replaced by a more recent one.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

Sar-e Pul has a population of approximately 621 000. The main ethnic group in the province are Uzbeks. It is located in the northern part of Afghanistan and borders Jawzjan, Balkh, Samangan, Bamyan, Ghor, and Faryab. Sar-e Pul is divided into seven districts. A highway from Shiberghan, Jawzjan province, connects the provincial capital of Sar-e Pul with the Mazar-e Sharif – Herat section of the Ring Road (Highway One).

Since 2012, Sar-e Pul province has become a ‘Taliban stronghold’. It is considered to be one of the most Taliban-controlled or influenced provinces in the northern region. Militants from the Islamic Jihad Union have operated alongside the Taliban since 2015. There is no evidence of ISKP presence in the province.

According to LWJ, five of the districts were contested, considering only the district of Kohestanat under Taliban control, and the district of Balkhab under government control.

ACLED collected data on 142 violent incidents in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 2 incidents per week), of which 117 were coded as ‘battles’, 17 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and eight 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 government representatives, attacks on their facilities, such as checkpoints and military bases, and attacks on convoys. At times these incidents resulted in civilian casualties. Operations and attacks carried out by Afghan security forces against AGEs were also reported, resulting in the displacement of people from their villages. Incidents of explosions/remote violence, such as incidents of rocket or mortar fire, both by the Taliban and ANSF, roadside bombings and the explosion of a rocket shell, also caused civilian casualties. Reported violence against civilians included killings, for example by the Taliban and ANSF for refusing to follow orders or for unknown or unclear reasons. Kidnapping and release of a healthcare team was also reported. Polling sites were attacked by the Taliban, resulting in civilian casualties.

UNAMA documented 217 civilian casualties (48 deaths and 169 injured) in 2019, representing 35 victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was an increase of 115 % compared to 2018. Leading causes of casualties were ground engagements, followed by explosive remnants of war, and non-suicide IEDs.

RS ranked Sar-e Pul in the category of provinces where the number of civilian casualties was between 0 and 25 for the first quarter of 2020, and between 26 and 50 for the second quarter.

In the period 1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020, 7 357 persons were displaced from the province of Sar-e Pul, of whom 79 % were displaced within the province itself. In April 2019 and January 2020, Sar-e Pul province also hosted IDPs from Faryab and Jawzjan.

Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the province of Sar-e Pul, 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.

[Main COI reference: Security situation 2020, 2.31]