After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in 2021, the progress attained over the previous two decades towards improving women's rights has been sharply reversed. The Taliban, now functioning as the de facto government, has drastically undermined rights to freedom of expression and assembly.
Access to healthcare, safe water, and food, already adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, has been curtailed due to the suspension of international aid. Afghanistan's already precarious humanitarian situation is exacerbated by drought, the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, international sanctions against the Taliban, and the freezing of government assets.
As of August 2022, over 23 million people face acute hunger and food insecurity, including more than 3 million children who are at risk of death from severe malnutrition.
Here are a few things we're watching right now:
ISIS & Related Terrorism
The Hazara Shia community has been the target of recent terrorist attacks. Three bombings at the Sayed al-Shuhada school on May 8, 2021, caused the death of 85 civilians, including 28 women and 42 girls. Over 200 people were injured, with the majority being members of the Hazara community.
There was no official claim for the attack, but the targeted area is a common site for attacks from the ISIS affiliate, Islamic State - Khorasan Province (ISKP) . The May 8 attacks were supplemented by a suicide bombing four months later in Kunduz that killed approximately 72 people. ISKP claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attacks by ISKP were met with retaliatory force from the Taliban, killing dozens of former security force personnel and officials. After gaining control of Malistan, Ghazni, the Taliban killed several civilians and 19 security force personnel.
The conflict between members of the ISKP and the Taliban has heightened in 2022, with each party committing targeted attacks aimed at inflicting as much damage and terror on the opposing group as possible.
On April 19, 2022, Shia Hazara became the target of three explosions that killed at least six people. The bombings were directed at the Abdul Rahim Shahid Secondary School in Kabul. Scores of other students were injured in the attacks.
On August 5, an IED explosion in a Shia neighborhood in western Kabul killed eight people while injuring another 18. The IED was hidden in a handcart loaded with vegetables and intentionally parked near a mosque where civilians shop for daily commodities.
On August 6, another explosion in a crowded neighborhood in western Kabul killed another eight people and injured 22 others. The blast was targeted at the Shia community. ISKP took responsibility for both attacks.
Non-state actors, specifically ISKP, have caused over 90% of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan since August 15, 2022. Taliban reports that the use of explosive weapons by ISKP has so far led to 1,022 civilian deaths in 2022.
The majority of ISKP's attacks have transpired in or near places of worship. Other targeted areas include busy roads, multiple urban areas, public gatherings, and public transport.
Clashes Between the NRF & Taliban
Since the takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban has imposed and maintained a de facto form of government. The Taliban's restrictions on personal rights and freedom, particularly those of women, have compelled anti-state actors to instigate conflict in an effort to overthrow the Taliban's rule.
The National Resistance Front (NRF) has been at the frontline of conflict with the Taliban in 2022. Within the first six months of 2022, NRF had conducted at least 300 attacks on Taliban strongholds, leading to scores of civilian casualties.
Most of NRF's attacks have occurred in the Panjshir and northeastern Baghlan provinces. NRF battles have also been reported in central Daykundi and western Herat provinces. NRF has managed to gain control of the Panjshir and Takhar provinces, which the Taliban previously occupied. In response to these attacks, the Taliban has mobilized its troops to northern Afghanistan, where NRF's major strongholds are situated.
Since January 2022, NRF has increased shelling and rocket attacks targeted at Taliban bases, while Taliban troops have escalated air and drone strikes in Takhar and Panjshir.
An additional nine non-state groups have emerged in 2022, engaging in over 100 armed conflicts with Taliban forces.
Intensified conflict in 2022 continues to underscore economic, political, and security challenges facing Afghanistan. The financial crisis in Afghanistan has intensified, with climate change and famine undermining agricultural production and exposing civilians to dire risk. Despite the Taliban's military power and government control, civil and armed resistance endures.
Observers project that anti-state armed resistance will increase in the coming months. Increased extreme violence against innocent civilians demonstrates that the Taliban regime is unlikely to limit its repressive policies and implement substantive reform in the short term. As insecurity due to armed conflict escalates across the country, civilians will continue to bear the brunt.
The enduring economic crisis in the country has made the affordability of essential items, including food, shelter and clothing, problematic. Civilians fear going to public places where ISKP and Taliban forces have been known to launch attacks, mainly in the form of IED explosions.
The restrictions on Afghanistan's banking sector by the Word Bank and the US have significantly amplified the economic crisis in the country by hampering legitimate economic activities, including humanitarian efforts. Because of these incapacities, basic economic processes remain severely undermined.
The World Food Programme (WFP) reports that Afghans are entrenched in acute malnutrition due to the enduring conflict between non-state actors and Taliban forces. Approximately 20 million people (half of Afghanistan's population) suffer from level-4 and level-3 emergency levels of food insecurity.
The implications of mass hunger and famine are particularly felt among children, with over one million under five at risk of death due to acute malnutrition. Even if these children survive, they are at grave risk of suffering from significant health problems, including stunted growth.
The WFP reports that tens of thousands of civilians in the province of Ghor have slipped into catastrophic level-5 acute malnutrition, which is considered a precursor to famine.
Since the Taliban's takeover in August 2021, over 90% of the country's population has been suffering from food insecurity, with the majority being forced to engage in extreme coping mechanisms to pay for food. Among these mechanisms are child labor, which directly correlates to the loss in education and an increase in more extreme forms of child exploitation, including trafficking.
Afghanistan's already dire humanitarian situation is worsened by continued conflict and the possibility of additional anti-state actors coming into being. The ensuing economic crisis in the country has forced civilians to resort to extreme coping mechanisms, with some families taking their children out of school and forcing them to work. The restrictions enforced by the Taliban have made it problematic for civilians to make a living. This, coupled with the banking restrictions imposed by the US and World Bank, has consequently contracted Afghanistan's economy even further.
Based on these developments, in August 2022 the humanitarian situation in the country can be categorized as "worsening."
HUMANITE in Afghanistan
HUMANITE founders have been engaged in caring for Afghan people since around 2010, from working to provide lifesaving surgeries for Afghan children to responding to calls for help from within Afghanistan during the fall internationally-recognized Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in 2021. As a team full of Iraqis, who share many experiences with the Afghan people, Afghanistan has never been far from our hearts or minds.
Although HUMANITE is not actively programming in Afghanistan through staff, fellows, or partners at this time, we hope to increase our funding and continue expressing our solidarity with the people of Afghanistan soon.