Skip to main content
Last update: November 2021

After years of insurgency and in some areas positioning themselves as a shadow government, in summer 2021, the Taliban took control over the country. On 15 August, President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, police and other government forces gave up their posts, and Taliban fighters entered the capital and took control of its checkpoints. Taliban leaders entered the presidential palace, addressed media the following day, and declared the war to be over [Security September 2021, 1.1.1].

As of 1 October 2021, the LWJ mapping of Taliban control in Afghanistan, last updated on 15 September 2021, considered 391 districts under Taliban control, Chahar Kint district in Balkh as contested, and 15 districts in Panjshir, Baghlan, Parwan, Kapisa, Wardak, and Takhar as having guerrilla activity.[14]

As a networked insurgency during the last years, the Taliban operated with strong leadership at the top and decentralised local commanders who could mobilise resources at the district level [Anti-government elements, 2.1]. Throughout the US-Taliban negotiations, and despite the reshuffling of its provincial appointments, the Taliban leadership was in general able to maintain unity within the rank and file. However, there were reports of deepening divisions around cutting ties with Al Qaeda and a growing division between the Taliban’s military commanders on the ground and the Doha political team. For the most part, the leadership had been united in favour of pursuing the talks with the US. However, some splinter groups of the Taliban opposing the US deal emerged during this period [Anti-government elements, 2.1; Security June 2021, 1.1.3].

Over the last two decades, the Taliban have been reported to target civilians deliberately as well as in indiscriminate attacks against civilian objects. Reports included targeted killings of individuals affiliated with the Afghan government and foreign forces, journalists, human rights activists, religious leaders and others. The parallel justice mechanism the Taliban have been operating is based on a strict interpretation of the Sharia, leading to executions and other punishments deemed to be cruel, inhuman and degrading, including corporal punishments. The Taliban have also been reported to use torture against detainees [Anti-government elements, 2.5; Security June 2021, 1.2.2, 2.1.3; Criminal law and customary justice, 1.8].

According to UNAMA, in 2020, the Taliban caused 3 960 civilian casualties, including 1 470 civilian deaths and 2 490 civilians wounded, which represented a 13 % increase in civilians killed, and a 31 % decrease in civilians wounded compared to 2019. The group was responsible for a 43 % increase in civilian casualties killed by non-suicide IEDs, especially through the use of victim-activated pressure-plate IEDs and vehicle-borne non-suicide IEDs [Security June 2021, 1.2.2, 2.1.3]. In the winter of 2020-2021, targeted killings of ANSF members, journalists, members of the judiciary, women’s rights activists and other members of civil society were seen by analysists as pre-emptively targeting independently-minded ‘public intellectuals’ in the hope of eventually capturing the capital city [Security September 2021, 1.4.3].

On 19 August, an official Taliban spokesperson declared the creation of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, a name used in other public statements as well [Security September 2021, 1.1.2]. On 7 September, the Taliban announced the members of an interim government, proclaiming Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada a supreme leader. The cabinet includes several figures from the Taliban regime in the 1990s. Among the 33 members of the announced cabinet, many appear on the UN sanctions list for their ties to terrorism.[15] The Taliban expanded their interim cabinet on 21 September 2021 by naming deputy ministers. It was announced that ethnic minorities will be represented, including a Hazara-Shia deputy minister, however at this time the cabinet remained all-male.[16]

Due to the short time since the Taliban takeover, information regarding the policies and behaviour they intend to pursue remains limited and/or conflicting. It is also unclear to what extent the Taliban leadership will be in a position to control the behaviour of local Taliban members. In this regard, the situation of profiles previously targeted by the Taliban should be assessed with particular care and taking into account this actor’s increased capabilities and territorial control.


For further information on human rights violations committed by the Taliban and their relevance as potential exclusion grounds, see 6. Exclusion.



[14] FDD’s Long War Journal interactive map, accessed 1 October 2021, url. [back to text]
[15] Deborah Lyons, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of UNAMA, UN Security Council Meetings Coverage, SC/14628, 9 September 2021, url; RFE/RL, Taliban’s ‘Mullahcratic’ Government: Militants Fail To Form Inclusive Administration, 8 September 2021, url. [back to text]
[16] Tolo news, New Cabinet Members Announced, Inauguration Cancelled, 21 September 2021, url; Al Jazeera, September 2021, Taliban names deputy ministers, double down on all-male cabinet, url; Wall Street Journal, Taliban Add Minorities, Technocrats to Afghan Government, but No Women, 21 September 2021, url. [back to text]