This COI Focus aims to provide information on the security situation in Kabul City and is an update of both the COI Focus Afghanistan. Security Situation in Kabul City from 15 May 2019 and the Kabul City chapter taken from the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) Country of Origin Information Report. Afghanistan: Security Situation, published in June 2019. If any developments significantly change the security situation in Kabul, Cedoca will update this COI Focus as soon as possible. For a general introduction to the security situation in Afghanistan, reference is made to the EASO report listed above, published in June 2019.
This report follows the structure of the individual provincial chapters in the June 2019 EASO report. The general description of the city contains information on the geography and population; the chapter on the background of the conflict takes a longer term look at the security situation in Kabul, including the actors active in the city. In the chapter on recent security trends, the nature of the violence, frequency, targets, locations, and victims are described within a timeframe from 1 April 2019 until 31 March 2020. Finally, a separate chapter is dedicated to population displacements caused by the conflict and the situation of internally displaced people (IDPs) and returnees in Kabul City.
This report presents information from 1 April 2019 until 31 March 2020.
As this report is an update of the Kabul City chapter from the June 2019 EASO report, it is written according to the EASO COI Report Methodology (June 2019) and the EASO COI Referencing Guide (June 2019).
Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, is by far the country’s most populous and influential city, characterized by an unprecedented demographic and urban growth. Kabul’s rapid expansion has complicated living conditions as well as security in the city. Because of its high concentration of government buildings, international organisations, diplomatic compounds and national and international security forces, the capital has a different security outlook than most of Afghanistan’s other districts and provinces.
The conflict in the Afghan capital is characterized by asymmetric tactical warfare. Suicide and non-suicide IEDs as well as targeted killings are reported as the current three main tactics used in Kabul. The main targets in the city remain Afghan government departments and officials, individuals perceived as supporting or connected to the Afghan government, the Afghan security forces and high-profile international institutions. The 2019 countrywide fluctuation in violence is reflected in the evolution of the security situation in the capital. A significant decrease in conflict-related incidents during the first six months was followed by a spike in suicide and complex attacks in the third quarter, and another decline in conflict-related violence in 2019’s last quarter. Despite the overall reduction in high-profile attacks, Kabul City suffered the highest nationwide number of suicide and complex attacks in 2019. The decrease in large-scale attacks in the capital is reported to have been accompanied by a sustained rise in targeted assassinations.
Although Kabul remains under government control, armed opposition groups such as the Taliban and ISKP demonstrated their capacity to infiltrate the city and carry out attacks -aiming to attract international media attention, create a perception of widespread insecurity and undermine the Afghan government’s legitimacy. The Taliban’s 2019 strategy was described as a mixture of ‘fight and talk’, combining high-profile attacks in Kabul City with peace negotiations for a US troop withdrawal. Due to continued ANDSF pressure, ISKP security-related incidents (including sectarian-motivated attacks) decreased significantly in Kabul. However, the group retains an operational capacity in the city. Both insurgency groups are reported to maintain strong information networks and active cells in the Afghan capital.
Security in the capital remains a top priority for the ANDSF. Since the beginning of 2018, the Kabul Enhanced Security Zone is being established, with several new security measures implemented so far. Security concerns in Kabul, however, are not limited to insurgent attacks alone. They also include a significant rise in criminality. Incidents of murder, armed robbery, kidnappings, extortion, petty theft and drug-related criminality were increasingly reported in 2019 -with a police force proving unable to respond effectively.
Despite a 16 % decrease compared to 2018, Kabul remained the province with the highest number of civilian casualties in 2019. Over half of all civilian casualties from suicide attacks in 2019 were reported in 15 such incidents in Kabul City. Kabul is mentioned as the first among five provinces whose inhabitants were most impacted by the conflict in 2019. Civilian casualties due to election-related violence in 2019 were significantly lower than in 2018. A high number of small-scale attacks to prevent or disrupt the electoral process were reported, mostly attributed to the Taliban.
Although the number of IDPs finding refuge in Kabul district decreased by more than 50 % compared to the previous reporting period, Kabul remains the main gravitational centre for migrants in the country -putting further strain on the city’s services and absorption capacity. The total number of IDPs and returnees in Kabul is not known, as movement to and within the city is fluid and many return regularly to their area of origin. With limited job opportunities, few or no social protection nets, poor shelter/housing conditions, impeded access to education and healthcare and the continuous fear of eviction due to tenure insecurity or land grabbing, IDP’s and returnees in the capital’s numerous informal settlements face precarious living conditions and are often forced into secondary displacement as well as negative coping strategies.
The general security situation in Afghanistan is largely determined by a long-term, ongoing, internal armed conflict which has resulted in many Afghans being uprooted or seeking refuge in another country. In order to assess the need for international protection, the Commissioner General takes into account the fact that there are fundamental differences between the regions of Afghanistan when it comes to the security situation, the nature and intensity of the violence.