2016 recorded the highest number of conflict-related civilian casualties since the UN began to systematically document civilian casualty figures in 2009. There were 11,418 casualties: 3,498 dead and 7,920 wounded.?The Taliban were responsible for most of the casualties. IS carried out a ten-fold increase in attacks compared to 2015, resulting in 899 civilian casualties (209 dead and 690 wounded).? Most IS attacks were targeted at Shia Muslim communities.
Pul-i-Khumri, the provincial capital of Baghlan province has been under Taliban threat since May 2016. Pul-i-Khumri district and three more of Baghlan's 13 districts are territories contested by the Taliban.? Police have established around 25 checkpoints along the highway between Baghlan and Kunduz to enhance security.? This is in response to the Taliban occasionally shutting down the highway linking Pul-i-Khumri and the neighbouring Kunduz City by overruning security checkpoints and blocking off the road.?
As of the end of December 2016, the Baghlan military council decided to withdraw Afghan Security Forces from two large military bases, Alavuddin and Mangalha, in Baghlan-e-Markazi district. Baghlan residents expressed their concern that if the decision is implemented, Baghlan-e-Markazi and even Baghlan province could fall under the control of the Taliban.?
Several clashes between insurgent groups and Afghan forces have been reported in various districts in Helmand province.? A large-scale military operation in Sangin district on 3 February resulted in the death of 65 Taliban and 15 civilians.?
Fighting between Afghan forces and the Taliban has been intensifying since the Taliban attacked Nawa district on 3 October 2015. The Afghan military had retaken control of the area in August 2016.??
The capital of Helmand province, Lashkar Gah, has been under Taliban threat for over a year. ? Of Helmand’s 14 districts, six are known to be controlled by the Taliban and another seven, including the provincial capital, are heavily contested. ?
Kabul has been the site of attacks on government buildings and facilities as well as humanitarian organisations. There have also been kidnappings of foreign nationals. The Taliban is responsible for the majority of attacks. However, IS has also undertaken two attacks recently, mostly targeting the Shia Hazara community.
IS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack on the Afghan Supreme Court building on 7 February 2017 which killed 20 people and injured 48.? On 10 January 2017, twin bombings by the Taliban struck near the Afghan parliament, killing 30 people and injuring 80.?
On 12 October 2016, 18 people were killed and 54 wounded in an IS attack on the Shia Hazara community at Kabul's Sakhi shrine, on the eve of Ashura, the Shia mourning day.?IS also claimed responsibility for two explosions during a public demonstration by Shia Hazaras on 23 July 2016, which killed around 80 people and injured another 231. This was the deadliest attack in the capital since 2001.?
On 6 September 2016, a Taliban bomb attack caused substantial damage to a government building and to the neighboring building of CARE International, although there were no injuries. ?On 24 August 2016, militants attacked the American university of Afghanistan in Kabul; 16 people were killed and 50 injured during a nine-hour siege. Afghan troops, with the help of the US led-military coalition, led the clearing operation. No one claimed responsibility for the attack, although the Taliban is suspected.?
The volatile situation in Kunduz continues. On 3 October 2016, the Taliban attacked Kunduz city in an attempt to recapture it. At least three civilians were killed and more than 290 wounded. 24,000 civilians have been displaced by the violence.?? The Taliban occupied large areas of the city for nine days before being pushed back by Afghan forces. The Taliban remain on the outskirts of Kunduz City; all seven districts in the province are at best contested.?
On 20 August, the Taliban briefly captured Khan Abad district, 30km east of Kunduz city. After heavy fighting Afghan forces regained control. ??Heavy clashes between security forces and Taliban erupted in Qala-e-Zal district in north Kunduz in July, and were later also reported in Dasht-e-Archi district. Taliban have taken control of some villages, despite suffering heavy casualties.??
Tarin Kot, the capital of Uruzgan province has been under direct Taliban threat since the beginning of September 2016, when Taliban forces entered the city and battled Afghan forces. The Taliban has since been driven to the outskirts of the city. Of the province’s six districts, one is under Taliban control and the remaining five are heavily contested.?
On 10 January 2017, as many as 13 civilians were killed in an explosion at the residence of the Kandahar Provincial Governor. Five of those killed were UAE diplomats. The UAE ambassador to Afghanistan and the Governor of Kandarhar were among the wounded.?
In Herat province, a suicide bombing at a mosque injured six people in Bagh-e-Zubaiada area, west of Herat city, on 1 January 2017. No one claimed responsibility for the attack.?
The Taliban has focused its operations in various other rural districts of Afghanistan, vital to the Taliban's insurgency. They use these rural districts as safe havens to recruit and train fighters, raise funds, resupply, and launch attacks on the population centres.? On 29 December 2016, more than 12 civilians were injured by a Taliban-fired mortar shell in the Batikot district of eastern Nangarhar province.?
Ten IS militants were killed in a US drone strike on 1 January 2017 and two commanders were arrested by Afghan security forces in Haska Mina district of Nangarhar province.? IS activity tends to be in the eastern parts of the country, but in recent months IS militants have carried out more kidnapping and suicide attacks in other provinces. Commands sanctioning these attacks generally come directly from the IS base in Nangarhar.?