Afghanistan

European Union Agency for Asylum: Afghanistan – Security Situation: Country of Origin Information Report (August 2022)

Attachments

Introduction

The purpose of this report is to provide security-related information relevant for international protection status determination. The report contains information on the general security situation in Afghanistan, as well as information on security-related events on regional and provincial level.

The reference period is 15 August 2021–30 June 2022. The report is to be read in conjunction with two other COI reports published by EUAA in August 2022: Afghanistan – Targeting of Individuals and Afghanistan – Key Socio-economic Indicators in Afghanistan and in Kabul City.

Methodology

This report is an update of the EASO COI report Afghanistan Security Situation first published in January 2015 and updated annually.3 This report is produced in line with the EASO COI Report Methodology (2019)4 and the EASO COI Writing and Referencing Style Guide (2019).5 Defining the terms of reference The terms of reference were defined by EUAA and were based on inputs on information needs from country of origin information (COI) and policy experts in EU+ countries within the framework of a Country Guidance development on Afghanistan. The terms of reference are available in Annex 2: Terms of Reference.

Collecting information

In accordance with the EASO COI Report Methodology, the content of this report relies on a range of different open-source material, as well as interviews and email contacts with oral sources. Information was mainly gathered from public COI reports of national migration administrations, media reports, research articles, reports by international organisations, and international non-governmental organisations.

Quality control

The report was peer reviewed by COI specialists from EU+ countries mentioned in the Acknowledgements section, and internally by EUAA. All comments made by reviewers were taken into consideration and most of them were implemented in the final draft. Some information was added after the peer review during the finalisation of the report. The two main reports added are: report by United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) ‘Human Rights in Afghanistan, 15 August 2021 – 15 June 2022’, which is the first report released by UNAMA since the Taliban takeover of power in Afghanistan, and the report the Danish Immigration Service (DIS) ‘Afghanistan, Taliban’s impact on the population’ published in June 2022.

Sources

In accordance with the EASO COI Report Methodology the content of this report relies on a range of different open-source material. In accordance with the EASO COI Report Methodology oral sources were interviewed and contacted via email to fill in gaps in available written information. Material from interviews with oral sources for the EASO COI report:
Afghanistan – Country Focus (January 2022) was also used for this report. Some sources were anonymised upon their own request. All sources are outlined in the Bibliography.

For information on security incidents and casualties/fatalities, data from the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED)6 and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP)7 have been used.

ACLED is a project collecting, analysing and mapping information on ‘dates, actors, locations, fatalities, and types of all reported political violence and protest events around the world’.8 For Afghanistan, ACLED covers political violence and protests spanning from January 2017 to the present.9 Each week, ACLED reviews around 110 sources in English, Dari/Farsi, Pashto, and Arabic on political violence in Afghanistan and collects the information into a database.10 The reference period for the ACLED data in this report is from 15 August 2021 to 30 June 2022. EUAA downloaded the ACLED curated data files on Central Asia and the Caucasus, including Afghanistan, on 2 August 2022.

ACLED methodology applied for coding and monitoring of the data is explained in detail in its Codebook and in a specific methodology for Afghanistan.11 As ACLED points out, the reader should, however, be aware of some limitations in the data. These limitations, as described by ACLED, are: ‘the first is that most of the data is gathered based on publicly available, secondary reports. This means that the data is in part a reflection of the coverage and reporting priorities of media and international organisations. One of the effects of this is that it may under-estimate the volume of events of non-strategic importance (for example, low-level communal conflict, or events in very isolated areas). We work to address this possibility by triangulating data sources to include humanitarian and international organisation reports, rather than media alone; and by conducting ground-truthing exercises in which we present data to local organisations and partners to assess its validity among people working directly in conflict-affected contexts.’12 Therefore, ACLED's figures in this report are to be considered as an estimate and indication of trends in violence over a given period of time.13 ACLED provides also an estimated number of casualties for each security incident, noting although that ‘[f]atality data are typically the most biased, and least accurate, component of any conflict data’ and ‘should be treated as “reported fatalities”’.14 For the purpose of this report, only the following types of events recorded by ACLED were included as security incidents for the analysis of the security situation in Afghanistan:

• ‘Battles’: ‘ACLED defines a battle as “a violent interaction between two politically organized armed groups at a particular time and location.” Battles can occur between armed and organised state, non-state, and external groups, and in any combination therein. There is no fatality minimum necessary for inclusion.’‘The following subevent types are associated with the “Battles” event type and are designated according to the outcome of the battle event: “Armed clash”, “Government regains territory”, and “Non-state actor overtakes territory”.

• ‘Violence against civilians’: ‘ACLED defines “Violence against civilians” as violent events where an organised armed group deliberately inflicts violence upon unarmed non-combatants. […] “Violence against civilians” includes attempts at inflicting harm (e.g. beating, shooting, torture, rape, mutilation, etc.) or forcibly disappearing (e.g. kidnapping and disappearances) civilian actors. The following sub-event types are associated with the “Violence against civilians” event type: “Sexual violence”, “Attack”, and “Abduction/forced disappearance”.’

• ‘Explosions/remote violence’: ‘ACLED defines “Explosions/Remote violence” as “onesided violent events in which the tool for engaging in conflict creates asymmetry by taking away the ability of the target to respond”. […] The following sub-event types are associated with the “Explosions/Remote violence” event type: “Chemical weapon”, “Air/drone strike”, “Suicide bomb”, “Shelling/artillery/missile attack”, “Remote explosive/landmine/IED”, and “Grenade”.

ACLED identified in its 2021 Codebook three codes for the geo-precision of events: ‘If the report notes a particular town, and coordinates are available for that town, the highest precision level “1” is recorded. If the source material notes that activity took place in a small part of a region, and notes a general area, a town with georeferenced coordinates to represent that area is chosen and the geo-precision code will note “2” for “part of region”. If activity occurs near a town or a city, this same precision code is employed. If a larger region is mentioned, the closest natural location noted in reporting (like “border area”, “forest” or “sea”, among others) is chosen to represent the region – or a provincial capital is used if no other information at all is available – and is noted with precision level “3”. No ACLED event is associated with the “country” as the smallest location unit available.’

For the purposes of this report only the security incidents with the geo-precision at level 1 and 2 were taken into account.

EUAA provided analytical graphs on security incidents based on publicly available ACLED data. However, due to the decrease in the number of security incidents after the Taliban takeover on 15 August 2021, the graphs were included only for the provinces where more than 50 security incidents were recorded.

The Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) is a ‘data collection project for civil war’.20 UCDP provided EUAA with a Georeferenced Event Dataset (GED) covering the period from 16 August 2021 to 1 June 2022.

UCDP’s methodology is explained on its website as well as its Georeferenced Event Dataset Codebook.21 The unit of analysis of UCDP is the ‘event’. 22 UCDP defines an event as ‘[a]n incident where armed force was used by an organised actor against another organized actor, or against civilians, resulting in at least 1 direct death at a specific location and a specific date.’23 This leads, among other things, to ‘seemingly low estimates’ because ‘a number of factors can preclude a potential conflict event from inclusion in the UCDP GED’, for example, unclear actors or uncertainty about whether fatalities occurred.24 UCDP provides three estimates for fatalities for each event – a low estimate, a best estimate, and a high estimate. In addition, UCDP provides an estimate of the number of civilian casualties.25 According to UCDP, ‘it is quite likely that there are more fatalities than given in the best estimate, but it is very unlikely that there are fewer’.26 Because of their definition of event, several types of violent incidents recorded by ACLED do not meet the criteria of UCDP, such as the option to assign violent events to “Unidentified Armed Groups”. As a result, the number of incidents recorded by ACLED can be significantly higher than the number of incidents recorded by UDCP. For the purposes of this report, ACLED and UCDP data was used to provide figures for the number of security incidents and overall recorded fatalities countrywide and for each province.

Due to the lack of regional and/or local news outlets covering Afghanistan extensively, articles published by Pajhwok Afghan News27 and Hasht-e Subh28 were largely used to provide examples of security incidents that had caused civilian casualties. A shift in the reporting tone of Hash-e Subh, particularly when referring to resistance groups in Panjsher Province, was noted during the drafting exercise. Due to difficulties assessing the reliability of this source, case-by-case assessments have been made on the inclusion of reports from Hasht-e Subh.

Reporting from Hasht-e Subh was often uncorroborated. Efforts to corroborate the information have been made but this was not always possible.

On internal displacement, the main sources used in the report are the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM). UNOCHA provides information on conflict induced displacement, indicating, however, that numbers related to newly displaced populations due to conflict were still subject to assessment and ‘expected to change as new assessment figures become available’.29 The Displacement Tracking Matrix by IOM ‘tracks and monitors displacement and population mobility’ caused by conflict and natural disaster. The assessments track four target population categories: arrival IDPs, returned IDPs, persons who moved abroad, and returnees from abroad. 30 For the period from August to December 2021, an Emergency Event Tracking (EET) assessment was conducted by IOM to track ‘displacement and population movements due to the rapid political transformations in 2021 and its consequences’.