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Afghanistan situation: Emergency preparedness and response in Iran, 2 November 2021

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KEY HIGHLIGHTS

681,332 people have been internally displaced in Afghanistan in 2021, equivalent to 100,707 families. Of the internally displaced people, 59% are children.

Afghans continue to make their way to Iran irregularly through unofficial borders. UNHCR is aware of 20,878 Afghans who arrived in Iran from 1 January until 29 October, though the numbers are understood to be much higher.

Official borders between Afghanistan and Iran remain closed for asylum seekers. UNHCR continues its advocacy with the Government to open borders and allow individuals in need of international protection to get it.

POLITICAL, SECURITY & HUMANITARIAN SITUATION IN AFGHANISTAN

▪ The security situation in Afghanistan remains highly volatile. On 30 October, at least three persons were killed when gunmen presenting themselves as the Taliban attacked a wedding in Nangarhar province, in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied they were acting on behalf of the de facto authorities. On 2 November, another 25 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in an attack on Afghanistan’s biggest military hospital in Kabul. While no one has yet claimed responsibility, it is suspected that the Islamic State may be behind the attack. According to Colin Kahl, US under-secretary of defence for policy, the Islamic State in Afghanistan could have the capability of conducting “external operations”, including attacking the US, in as little as six months. Kahl also suggested that al-Qaida in Afghanistan posed another and perhaps more complex problem, given its ties to the Taliban, adding that it could take al-Qaida “a year or two” to regenerate the capability to carry out attacks outside of Afghanistan.

▪ On 30 October, the Taliban called on the United States and other countries to recognise their authority in Afghanistan. In a joint statement at the closure of the Tehran-hosted regional talks on Afghanistan on 27 October, the foreign ministers of Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Russia highlighted that forming a broad-based political structure would be the only solution to the problems in the country. While urging for the protection of the fundamental rights of all Afghans, the foreign ministers also called for a non-interference approach, reiterating the need for support of "national sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Afghanistan, and non-interference in its internal affairs”. While so far no country has formally recognised the Taliban government, senior officials from a number of countries, including Iran, have met with the de facto government’s leadership both in Kabul and abroad. Reportedly, the Taliban's diplomats have started working in Afghanistan's mission in Pakistan and the European Union is planning to reopen its diplomatic mission in Afghanistan in the upcoming month.

▪ During the aforementioned Iran-organised conference, the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said that Afghanistan is facing an “epic humanitarian crisis” that demands immediate action. On 2 November, UNHCR began airlifting winter relief items aid to Kabul: weighing 25 kg, each winterisation kit contains floorings, partitions, and other items to improve tent insulation against the cold. The kits also provide heat resistant protection to enable the installation of a stove. Additional winterisation support will reach 500,000 people before the end of the year.

▪ According to reports from the World Food Programme in Afghanistan, commodity and fuel prices have skyrocketed since June, with wheat increasing by 20% and cooking oil by 24%. A media report explored how, driven by widespread hunger and desperation, cases of child marriage have been on the rise across the country since August. Although marrying off children under 15 is illegal in Afghanistan, it has been practised in some of the more rural parts of the country. A month after Kabul’s takeover, the UN Women Deputy Executive Director Anita Bhatia, brought attention to five key areas for action in Afghanistan. Among this was the need to “put the humanitarian needs of women and girls at the heart of humanitarian response” and “hold the Taliban to account for the statements that they have made about protecting women’s rights”.