Crisis Severity The severity score from 1 to 5 is based on 31 indicators aggregated into 3 pillars (impact, conditions, and complexity)4.20 Very lowVery high 5
Impact This measures the impact of the crisis itself, in terms of the scope of its geographical, and human effects.4.80 Very lowVery high 5
Humanitarian Conditions This measures the conditions and status of the people affected, including info about the distribution of severity.4.00 Very lowVery high 5
Complexity This measures the complexity of the crisis, in terms of factors that affect its mitigation or resolution.4.20 Very lowVery high 5
Access Constraints This measures the level of humanitarian access constraints.4.0No constraintsExtreme constraints
Afghanistan: Displacement and access, Scenarios
The security situation in Afghanistan remains volatile as fighting between government and non-state armed groups, particularly the Taliban and the Islamic State Khorasan, intensified in 2019 amid ongoing peace negotiations between the US and the Taliban. Decades of conflict have had a severe impact on infrastructure, resilience, and population movement; in the first four months of 2019, more than 80,000 people were internally displaced by conflict.? A severe drought in 2018 has triggered additional internal displacement, decreased livelihood opportunities, and driven food insecurity that impacts more than 47% of the rural population, who largely rely on agriculture for their livelihoods.? 13.5 million people are currently estimated to face Crisis and Emergency (IPC 3 and 4) levels of food insecurity.? An increasing number of returnee-IDPs, primarily from Iran, put additional pressure on host community resources and international assistance.?
The preliminary results of the Afghan Presidential elections have been delayed until 14 November due to technical issues in counting votes and verifying biometric voter data. The elections took place in Afghanistan on 28 September and preliminary results were initially expected by 19 October. Initial estimates suggest that 25% of eligible voters participated, which would be the lowest voter turnout in the four elections that have taken place since 2001. The low turnout is likely an indication of the deteriorating security situation in the country. The year 2019 has seen extremely high numbers of civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan and the Taliban is believed to control more territory today than at any point since being ousted in 2001. On election day, more than 2,000 polling centres were unable to open due to security concerns, and militants attacked communications towers which cut off nearly 1,000 polling stations from election headquarters in Kabul. A UN report found that there were 28 fatalities and 249 injuries on election day.?
VEry High Constraints
Increased insecurity caused by weakening political stability in Afghanistan – including the failure of U.S-Taliban talks and the Afghan presidential elections, has significantly impacted humanitarian access in recent months. Hostilities between government forces and non-state armed groups have resulted in a high increase of civilian casualties. Additionally, attacks by the Taliban and Islamic State Khorasan have targeted civilian infrastructure and foreign NGOs. Access to non-government-controlled areas is volatile, with threats and expulsions causing agencies to suspend operations. Access to contested territory also remains challenging, with military offensives in these areas leading to road closures and displacements, disrupting access to services, limiting local populations’ freedom of movement and constraining humanitarian operations. Remote and mountainous terrain and severe damage to infrastructure caused by decades of conflict further restrict access.
Read more in the latest ACAPS Humanitarian Access Overview.
Peace talks between the US and the Taliban have seen some progress in 2019, most notably a draft agreement on the timeline for US troop withdrawal and the Taliban’s commitment to prevent militants from attacking US targets from Afghanistan.? Conceding to a potential ceasefire agreement would likely undermine the Taliban’s favourable negotiating position, for which military gains have seemingly been crucial in the past.? Targeted attacks to exert pressure on negotiations have occurred from both sides and are likely to continue.? Furthermore, the premature withdrawal of foreign forces risks leading to (non-state) armed groups expanding their offensives.? There is a general perception that the current talks are focused on lowering US financial and military involvement rather than on finding sustainable peace. This perception is reinforced by the absence of the Afghan government from talks and a lack of clarity over the content, as well as unclear discussion on the possibility of an interim government in the run up to the elections which have been postponed from July to September. If elections proceed without including the Taliban, the group is likely to violently disrupt the process.
A new escalation of hostilities will likely spark temporary and prolonged displacement and maintain the record-high levels of civilian casualties as seen in 2018. Major Taliban assaults on the strategic cities Farah, Ghazni and Kunduz in 2016 and 2018 led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people and several hundred civilian casualties, and these are in particular remain at risk of future assaults.? A spike in conflict will likely hamper access in a country where the humanitarian space is already limited. Uncertainty about the outcomes of peace negotiations and the upcoming Presidential elections – likely to be heavily contested – add to the extremely uncertain operating environment. Protection is a major concern for the civilian population. IDPs will also likely have urgent shelter, food, NFI and health needs. New displacement will add a strain to limited host community capacities. Resources will be further stretched due to high numbers of undocumented returnees that continue to return from Iran. Humanitarian needs will be exacerbated by decades of conflict, protracted poverty, and a severe drought in 2018 that left 13.5 million people severely food insecure.?
U.S. and Taliban Negotiations
Since 2018, the U.S. and the Taliban have engaged in discussions in an attempt to negotiate a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Afghan government was excluded from talks; the Taliban has long refused to negotiate with the government they refer to as a ‘puppet’ government of the United States. Talks have focused on four key issues: a Taliban guarantee that it will not allow foreign armed groups to use Afghanistan as a base for conducting attacks internationally, the withdrawal of U.S. forces, an intra-Afghan dialogue, and a permanent ceasefire. In September 2019, following the ninth round of talks, it was announced that an ‘agreement in principle’ was reached which would see the withdrawal of U.S. forces. Just days later, following an attack in Kabul which killed 12 people, including one American soldier, President Trump declared the talks “dead”. The next stage for negotiations is unclear. The Taliban has claimed it will ramp up attacks on U.S. interests, stating that ending talks will only do more harm to Washington.?
Food: Food insecurity affects 47% of the total population across all provinces: close to 11 million people face IPC Phase 3 (Crisis) and 4 (Emergency) levels.?
Protection: The indiscriminate use of IEDs, ground engagements and aerial operations are largely responsible for an average of 10,000 civilian casualties per year (2014-2018). Pre-existing gender and social inequalities have been exacerbated by the crisis.?
WASH: Close to 60% of Afghanistan’s population does not have access to improved sanitation and 36% rely on unimproved water sources; the drought has increased the use of unsafe water sources.?
Information gaps and needs
Access is often restricted due to ongoing hostilities, mine contamination, NSAG presence and remoteness, which subsequently decreases the accuracy of assessments of humanitarian needs.
Considering high population mobility and access restrictions, it is often difficult to track movements of internally displaced and returning populations.
Months of higher temperatures, usually from April to October/November, represent the Afghan fighting season, because milder temperatures make roads and other infrastructure, as well as mountain passes, more accessible.?
Heavy rains, usually falling from January - April, often cause flash floods and landslides in remote, northern areas of Afghanistan.?