The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office: ANSO Quarterly data report Q. 4 2012
SUMMARY & ASSESSMENT
The volume and profile of NGO incidents throughout 2012 suggest that NGO exposure to a number of key risk vectors has not substantially deteriorated or improved. Overall, 74 individual NGOs were victimized in 164 incidents of which 56% were authored by AOG, 32% by criminals and 12% by Afghan or international security forces. Abduction of NGO staff by AOG and criminals dropped from 36 cases in 2011 to 25 but was compensated for by an increase in the number of the most violent incident types (IED, SAF) from 39 to 45 cases. Despite this, the NGO casualty rate declined by 43% (toll deaths and 26 injuries in 2012) at least partly caused by improvements in NGO preparedness and situational response. However, the mitigation of ambient risks remains a challenge, increasingly so in the East where NGO exposure to violence and collateral damage has grown sharply, but primarily in the South where 46% of all conflict-related civilian deaths occurred.
Year-end data shows that AOG attacks fell by 25% although the reason for this remains disputed. While some claim it as evidence of AOG capacity degradation, ANSO believes it reflects the deliberate application of proportionality of effort to ensure that the response is relevant to the threat level posed by IMF. In our understanding, the resources to ramp up to previous levels of violence remain available but have simply been stood down, redeployed to other priorities, or engaged in second stage governance/political assignments. Furthermore, we have discerned a widening gap between the quick pace of IMF withdrawal and the slow growth of ANSF activity volumes while AOG have wasted no time in refocusing the bulk of their attacks on local Government and security forces. The opposition also undertook a significant escalation in Nangarhar to reinforce their stronghold in the East, in what we believe is a long range effort at strategic pre-positioning ahead of 2014. Despite the general reduction in attacks, the opposition will enter 2013 with a momentum advantage over ANSF, who are yet to prove their ability to fill the IMF void. As to the latter's engagement in the on-going transition process, we can only add that the process has so far appeared inconsequential to NGO security and safety.
Throughout 2012, both parties were faced with the risk of losing their own internal cohesion before being able to secure any military gains, but it unfortunately appears that political and diplomatic efforts on both sides will remain subordinate to military strategies as we head in to the new year. As such, the current positive de-escalation has not been meaningfully explored for fresh perspectives on possible solutions to the conflict, or to exploit eventual increases in trust and engagement between combatants. Instead we see the ongoing prioritization of short-term military objectives — still predominantly driven by foreign forces - over long-term political solutions that would seek to advance the inevitable coexistence of the forces of the Islamic Emirate with those of the Islamic Republic. With time to agree on a cease-fire prior to the upcoming presidential election in 2014 running out as we speak, the real concern must be that as one conflict ends, it may well be giving way to yet another protracted, destructive and ultimately inconclusive, military campaign.
Tomas Muzik, ANSO Director,
Kabul, Afghanistan, January 2013.