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Wardak province, also known as Maidan Wardak, is located in the central part of Afghanistan and has a population of approximately 660 000. The main ethnic groups are Pashtuns, followed by Hazaras and Tajik enclaves. The province is divided into nine districts and borders Parwan, Bamyan, Kabul, Logar, and Ghazni. The Kabul-Kandahar highway, which is of strategic importance, crosses the province’s districts of Maidan Shahr, Narkh and Saydabad.
Wardak province is considered a ‘relatively volatile’ province, with the Taliban active in most of its districts. Intense fighting between militant groups and government forces has been reported in several parts of the province, with civilians often caught in the crossfire. The Haqqani Network reportedly expanded to Wardak province in the past and merged there with jihadist groups. Groups affiliated to ISKP appeared in 2016 and one incident related to the group was documented by ACLED between 1 March 2019 and 30 June 2020.
Most districts of the province were categorised by LWJ as contested. Three districts were categorised as under government control or undetermined, and the district of Saydabad as under Taliban control.
ACLED collected data on 604 violent events in the period from 1 March 2019 to 30 June 2020 (average of 8.7 incidents per week), of which 388 were coded as ‘battles’, 184 as ‘explosions/remote violence’ and 32 as ‘violence against civilians’.
Examples of incidents include intensive night raids and airstrikes. Narkh and Jalrez districts were also affected by attacks on security vehicles. Many of Wardak’s highways were described as ‘not safe for civilians’. In May 2019, the Taliban attacked a Hazara populated neighbourhood in Markaz-e Behsud district. Mid-July 2019, reportedly in reaction to an NDS raid on a health clinic, the Taliban forced the closure of 42 clinics.
Further impact on the civilian population included the application of a strict form of the Sharia law in most of the districts. The Taliban reportedly banned shops and bakeries in the bazaar and set up checkpoints on a provincial road and temporarily captured strategic posts along main roads to Kabul, thereby restricting movement between provinces.
UNAMA documented 184 civilian casualties (108 deaths and 76 injured) in 2018, representing 28 civilian victims per 100 000 inhabitants. This was a decrease of 18 % compared to 2018. The leading causes for the civilian casualties were ground engagements, followed by airstrikes and search operations.
RS ranked Wardak 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 to 30 June 2020, 2 865 persons were displaced from the province of Wardak, the majority of whom within the province itself. In the same period, 35 persons were displaced to Wardak coming from other provinces.
Looking at the indicators, it can be concluded that indiscriminate violence is taking place in the province of Wardak, 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, 2.34