The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office: ANSO Quarterly data report Q. 1 2012
SUMMARY & ASSESSMENT
AOG attack volumes have decreased by 43% in comparison to Q1 2011 providing the first reliable indicator that the conflict may be entering a period of regression after years of sustained, and compounded, growth by all actors in the field. Despite this, one must still consider them an ascendant power, as they themselves clearly do, and a key question remains as to whether this lack of activity is a deliberate act and if so, why. As last year was characterised by AOG doing more earlier; this year has begun with them doing less later.
Of course, the same could be said for all actors in the field, as this years comprehensive incident volumes are 32% lower than Q1 2011, suggesting a level of synergy between the various parties to the conflict. An exception to this would be the ANSF, who are increasingly shouldering a heavier burden as the ISAF presence wanes, all part of the ongoing processes of withdrawal and transition. There are hints that this fundamental shift in responsibility may result in positive developments, particularly at the tactical level. This apparent willingness between the remaining players to reach local agreements may ultimately result in a broader space within which the NGO community is able to operate, as the volume of actively contested space shrinks.
However, it may be some time for this to be fully realised as current NGO incident volumes remain aligned to long term rate trends, though the authors of those incidents have shifted into line with present dynamics, as criminality had the greatest impact this quarter. In the majority of such cases, this criminality was financially motivated at both the individual and group levels, an early indicator that competition over the diminishing pool of resources ahead of 2014 may come to have a significant impact on the NGO safety context.
While some dynamics from this period should be met with cautious optimism, this must be tempered by close analysis of others that came into play last year, for example the upsurge in criminality, which continue into this period and provide early warning signs of new troubles on the horizon. The proliferation of irregular militias, an element that may be feeding into this trouble, continues to further complicate an already complex operational environment. At best it disrupts existing, and at times fragile, power sharing agreements at the local level and at worst, it results in open conflict that impacts NGO accessibility due to road insecurity and a lack of clarity of who to engage.
Ultimately, the first quarter of this year raises more questions than it answers by providing numerous indicators of the increasingly fluid nature of the conflict. A new phase in the evolution of the context is being realised, though how this will play out in the coming months, and years, is unclear and only with further analysis of the interplay between the various groups will this new reality become apparent.
Nathan Ronaldson, ANSO Director
Kabul, Afghanistan, 2012