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Actors of persecution and serious harm

Last update: November 2021

Risks to which a population of a country or a section of the population is generally exposed do not normally create in themselves an individual threat, which would qualify as serious harm (Recital 35 QD). Generally, persecution or serious harm must take the form of conduct of an actor (Article 6 QD).

According to Article 6 QD, actors of persecution or serious harm include:

Figure 1. Actors of persecution or serious harm.



This section includes guidance concerning some of the main actors of persecution or serious harm in Afghanistan. The list is non-exhaustive.









Taliban: 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, 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. The last available update of the LWJ mapping of Taliban control in Afghanistan of 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.

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.



Former State actors and resistance to the Taliban: The former Afghan State actors included members of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and other authorities from the three State branches (executive, legislative and judiciary).

Afghan State authorities and their associates were reported to have committed a wide range of human rights violations. Extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention, kidnapping, robbery, looting, torture, and ill-treatment have been reported. In addition, the ANP have been involved in extortion and organised crime, in particular near key smuggling routes. Recruitment and sexual exploitation of boys (bacha bazi) committed by Afghan security forces, in particular by the ALP was also observed, as well as sexual exploitation of girls.

A number of PGMs were fighting on the side of the government against Taliban and ISKP. Such militias included the National Uprising Movements, also referred to as public uprising forces, a community-based defence initiative, the Kandahar Strike Force, Paktika’s Afghan Security Guards, the Khost Protection Force and Shaheen Forces in Paktya, Paktika and Ghazni provinces. Following the final Taliban offensive in the summer months, these militias could not resist the Taliban forces and soon dissolved or joined the Taliban.

After the Taliban takeover, a resistance force emerged in Panjshir, under the name National Resistance Front (NRF). NRF consists of militia fighters and former government soldiers loyal to the previous administration and opposed to the Taliban rule. Although NRF initially kept control of the Panjshir Valley and reportedly struck back Taliban attacks, the holdout was reportedly encircled, with a significant force of Taliban fighters reported in the area. In the updated assessment from 15 September, LWJ considered these areas to have guerrilla activity.



Haqqani network: The Haqqani Network is a UN-designated terrorist organisation. In February 2021, UNAMA indicated that the Haqqani Network operated under the Taliban leadership and mostly followed Taliban policies and directions. The group was described as the ‘lethal arm of the Taliban’.

The Haqqani Network is believed to have been responsible for complex attacks in heavily populated areas of Kabul during the insurgency. The Network reportedly collaborated and kept close contact with Al Qaeda, despite the US deal. According to reports, Haqqani and ISKP also worked together, including in attacks on the Afghanistan presidential inauguration and an assault on a Sikh temple in Kabul in March 2020.

On 7 September, when the interim government was announced by the Taliban, the Network’s leader Sirajuddin Haqqani was appointed interior minister.


Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP): The ISKP is a Salafi-Jihadist organisation and a UN-designated terrorist organisation with operational ties with local groups. The core group in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces reportedly retained around 1 500 to 2 200 fighters, while smaller autonomous groups were located in Badakhshan, Kunduz and Sar-e-Pul. It was reported that a 450-strong cell of ISKP was disrupted around Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh province, suggesting that the group may be stronger in northern Afghanistan than previously assessed. Incidents were also reported in other provinces, such as Ghor and Parwan.
The group also continued to conduct deliberate attacks against civilians, in particular against members of the Hazara ethnicity and Shia Muslim religious minority and against Sikhs. The majority of the civilian casualties caused by ISKP were the result of ‘mass-casualty suicide attacks and mass-shootings in Kabul and Jalalabad’. Targeted killings continued in 2021 and individuals assassinated by the group included humanitarian workers engaged in de-mining, female media workers and female doctors. The group retained its ability to carry out terrorist attacks in Kabul and other major cities and claimed the attack at Kabul international airport of 26 August 2021, which killed more than 170 persons.


Al Qaeda: Al Qaeda is a transnational extremist Salafi jihadist organisation and UN-designated terrorist group. Sources indicate that it maintained a limited presence in Afghanistan, carrying out its activities mostly under the umbrella of other armed groups, particularly the Taliban. Sources reported in mid-2021 that the Taliban and Al Qaeda remained closely aligned and showed no indication of breaking ties, despite expectations created by the Doha agreement. It is also reported that a significant part of the leadership of Al Qaeda is based in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan.
According to UNAMA, Al Qaeda mainly engaged in the provision of training, including weapons and explosives, and mentoring, and they have been cited as being engaged in internal Taliban discussions over the movement’s relationship with other jihadist entities. The organisation also claimed responsibility for a number of attacks in Afghanistan, leading to ANSF casualties.


A number of foreign terrorist AGEs and fighters operate in Afghanistan. Main groups located in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan included Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (including a number of loose splinter groups), Jaish-e Momammed and Lashkar-e Tayyiba, which operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban and have been involved in targeted assassinations against government officials and others. There are also several central Asian und Uighur foreign terrorist and militant groups with fighters of Uzbek, Tajik und Turkmen ethnicity which were reported to present a significant threat in northern areas of Afghanistan, such as Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (also known as Jundullah), Jamaat Ansarullah Tajikistan, Lashkar-e Islam and The Salafist Group.


In specific situations, other non-State actors of persecution or serious harm may include clans, tribes, (locally) powerful individuals, the family (e.g. in the case of LGBTIQ persons, ‘honour’ violence) or criminal gangs (e.g. kidnapping for ransom), etc.