Armed Conflict in Afghanistan and its impact on the Humanitarian Community

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The Armed Conflict. Internal armed conflict:Afghanistan has been mired in armed conflict since 1979;For the first time since 2002 the UN Secretary-General, in its September 2008 report to the UN Security Council, points unequivocally to a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghani

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Armed Conflict in Afghanistan and its impact on the Humanitarian Community

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1. Armed Conflict in Afghanistan and its impact on the Humanitarian Community

2. The Armed Conflict Internal armed conflict: Afghanistan has been mired in armed conflict since 1979; For the first time since 2002 the UN Secretary-General, in its September 2008 report to the UN Security Council, points unequivocally to a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan; Conflict has expanded geographically and increased in violence and capacity to harm civilians; Main theatre of armed clashes continues to be the South, South-east and East, although the insurgency has stepped up attacks in the west, increasingly infiltrated the North, and steadily established itself in the central region, with the apparent aim to surround Kabul.

9. Attack on UNHCR Vehicle

14. Other recent security incidents: the killings of four aid workers from the International Rescue Committee in Logar in August; the killing of two WHO doctors and their UNAMA driver near Spin Boldak (Kandahar, border with Pakistan) in September; the assassination of the aid worker from Christian Aid in Kabul in October; the attack against the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul in October; the daytime assassination of the Director of Labor and Social Affairs in October in Kandahar; the acid spray attack on female students in Kandahar in November;

15. Other recent security incidents: the recent attack against an international military convoy again in urban Kabul in November; the murder of a UNHCR Community Services contract worker in Eastern Afghanistan in November; the suicide attack against a German Embassy vehicle, in which a UNHCR national colleague was injured in late November.

16. The Armed Conflict Internal armed conflict: Most dramatic change in conflict dynamics occurred in the central provinces surrounding Kabul, and particularly Wardak, Logar and Kapisa; Security incidents (UNDSS) in the Central Region has skyrocketed from 485 in the period of Jan-Aug 2007 to 806 in the same period in 2008; In these areas, the mainstream Taliban, the Haqqani network and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbudin operate; The proximity of the capital increases the political capital for the insurgency on its capacity to disrupt the presence of Afghan government in the area, establish a permanent presence with territorial control, and disrupt travel in and out of the capital; A Jane’s report describes these attacks as a means to maintain a presence in areas where the insurgency is unable to operate conventionally;

17. The Armed Conflict Internal armed conflict: While the North continues to be the most stable part of the country, security has also deterioted and a progressive infiltration by Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami Gulbudin has been reported. Insurgency has two main areas of activity in the North: first, the North-East, around the provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan and Takhar, and a second one in the North-West, in Badghis and Faryab; Kunduz seems to be the most affected area, where reports have been received of Taliban checkpoints and intimidations of civilians. UN staff have received threatening letters and were forced to relocate to Kunduz city centre; Similarly to the North, insurgent presence and conflict increased in the West; Insurgents in the West seem to have a more local component originating from a symbiotic relationship with powerful organised criminal groups, a level of support from local communities and tribal links with insurgents in Helmand (south) affecting Western provinces of Farah and Nimruz.

18. The Armed Conflict State Actors in the Armed Conflict: Afghanistan National Armed Forces and Police; International Armed Forces, consisting of the NATO-led ISAF (International Security Assistance Force), carrying a mandate from the UN Security Council (UNSC Resolution 1386, 20 December 2001); Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), launched by joint US and UK forces on 07 October 2001. OEF troops operates without a formal mandate by the UN, and are directly subordinated to the US Military Central Command; Conflict has expanded geographically and increased in violence and capacity to harm civilians; Current hostilities considered by ICRC as an armed conflict of non-international character;

19. The Armed Conflict Non-State Actors in the Armed Conflict: The insurgency has shown signs of resilience and boldness; Insurgent operations increasingly resorting to asymmetric tactics, such as attacks with explosives and suicide attacks; Fierce battles for territorial control in the southern Provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where mainly the Taliban operates; Armed clashes caused massive displacement of population.

20. The Armed Conflict Non-State Actors in the Armed Conflict: The Taliban, which continued to be led by their original leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, with the advice of a 33-member shura, also known as the rahbari shura, or the leadership council, based in Quetta, Pakistan; Analysts point to the relatively loose organizational structure of the group with tactical autonomy for field commanders, coexisting however with some degree of ideological consistency, legitimacy of the leadership, and unity of strategic command (Giustozzi & Synovitz); Reports of a rift between the Taleban’s most powerful insurgent commander, Jalaluddin Haqani, and Mullah Omar have been reported (Jane’s). Haqqani is believed to be based in Miran Shah (North Waziristan, Pakistan), where he relies on a tribal network to a higher degree than is the average among the Taliban.

21. The Armed Conflict Non-State Actors in the Armed Conflict: - Powerful groups of Islamic militants based in the Pakistani’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) have been referred to as the “Pakistani Taliban”; - In December 2007 these groups formed the Movement of Pakistani Taliban, or TTP (Teherek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan), led by a 40 member shura, under the command of Beitullah Mehsud, a Taliban leader based in South Waziristan, Pakistan. Mehsud has previously promised allegiance to Mullah Omar, as the general commander of the Taliban.

22. The Armed Conflict Non-State Actors in the Armed Conflict: The Hezb-e-Islami (Islamic Party) “Gulbuddin”. Founded by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar in 1975 and one of the main mujahideen parties fighting the Soviet Army in Afghanistan; The group operates in what has been described a loose alliance of convenience with the Taliban, while keeping full strategic and operational independence; Its power base is the non-tribalized Pashtuns from Eastern and North-Eastern Afghanistan.

23. The Armed Conflict Non-State Actors in the Armed Conflict: The Al-Qaeda network. A transnational network founded by Osama Ben Laden in the 1980s to channel the participation of foreign Islamist fighters in the Afghan resistance against the Soviet invasion. Al-Qaeda (“the base”) sees Afghanistan and the tribal areas of western Pakistan as its symbolic heartland and as a potential stable safe heaven if control by the local insurgency occurs. Al-Qaeda’s leader in Afghanistan has been reported as Uthman Abu Al-Yazid, an Egyptian associated with Osama Ben Laden since the 1980s, who declared the organisation’s focus on helping the insurgency manage the overall war effort by providing funds and training; Media reports on growing number of foreign fighters joining Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, including Arabs, Uzbeks, Chechens, North-Africans and Europeans (

24. The Armed Conflict Other Actors in the Armed Conflict: The Hezb-e-Islami (Khalis) split from the Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin in 1979 under the leadership of Yunus Khalis. It had Jalalabad as a power base and after the death of their leader Y. Khalis in 2006 some remnants may remain in Nangarhar province and adjacent areas in Pakistan. The Tora-Bora Nizami Mahaz (Military Front) is an offshoot of the Hezb-e-Islami (Khalis), led by Khalis’ son Anwarul Haq Mujahid, with a base in eastern Afghanistan and reported to be allied with the Taliban. The Jaish-e-Khorassan Al-Islami (Army of Islamic Khorassan) claimed in June 2008 to be comprised of Afghan and foreign fighters. It is based in South Waziristan, Pakistan, and in southern Afghanistan with the objective of fighting US forces in Afghanistan.

25. The Armed Conflict Other Actors in the Armed Conflict: A complex array of private or semi-private militias are also known to operate in Afghanistan; The Arbakai are tribal based militias, present in the South-eastern and Eastern areas, where traditional Pashtun tribal society is prevalent (Loya Paktia). They are charged with maintaining the security and defending the interests of the tribe. They can best be described as an enforcing element of formal tribal decisions reached through a jirga; There have been numerous reports, especially for the Northern Region, of some commanders maintaining armed forces, and even seeking to rearm, citing discrimination concerns related to the arming of the Auxiliary Police in the South and distrust of the capacity of the Afghan government to stop Taliban infiltration in the North; Militias linked to local commanders. Governors, former governors and strongmen in the Center, South and West of the country have established or maintained militias for self-defense and counterinsurgency; Between 90 and 140 private security companies, local, foreign or of mixed ownership and management, were operating in Afghanistan in April 2008, employing between 18,500 and 27,000 men and assuming duties such as security, police training, and intelligence; Several armed groups remain active in drug smuggling, kidnapping, and trafficking of persons throughout Afghanistan. These groups may have client based relations with almost any of the armed groups cited above, based on the exchange or armed protection or impunity for a share in criminal trade.

26. The Armed Conflict Impact of the conflict over the NGO Community: Of the total NGO incidents this year 33% have been attributed to Armed Criminal Groups (ACG); 67% attributed to Armed Opposition Groups (AOG/AGEs) or those working on their behalf. This is in contrast to 2007, where criminal incidents were more common, and confirms that the total incidents caused by AOG/AGEs has been expanding. (ANSO) 28 Fatalities and 72 abducted NGOs Staff until Sept. 2008. (ANSO) Approximately 75% of NGO fatalities, including all 5 internationals, can be attributed to AOG this year, up from just 53% in 2007. (ANSO) In conflict monitoring ANSO has continued to track unprecedented levels of violence across the country.

27. General Developments Political situation is marked by growing uncertainty due to approaching 2009 Elections; Permanence and aggravation of longstanding and structural obstacles to the enjoyment of human rights; The internal armed conflict and its consequences on Afghans’ rights to life, liberty and integrity have worsened.

28. The Socio-Economic Environment The socio-economic environment: Social and Economic environment has further deteriorated in the midst of an extremely severe winter (07-08), global food crisis and the persistence of drought; Afghanistan remains one of the poorest countries in the world. Half of all school-age children remain out of school; 1/5 of the Afghan populations is comprised by school-age children. This is the highest proportion in the world. The literacy rate of 15 to 24-year old Afghans is 34%, with 50% for men and only 18% for women. More than 20% of all Afghan children die before the age of five, of which a third dies soon after birth. The infant and under-five mortality rates in Afghanistan are among the highest in the world. Only Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone have higher rates. Malnutrition is a serious problem for Afghanistan. Nearly 40% of the children under 3 are moderately or severely underweight, and more than 50% of children in that age group are moderately or severely stunted. Wheat flour prices in Kabul remain nearly twice as high as in Pakistan, offering an attractive margin for traders.

29. Humanitarian Scenarios

30. Humanitarian Scenarios

31. Humanitarian Scenarios

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