CrisisWatch is our global conflict tracker, a tool designed to help decision-makers prevent deadly violence by keeping them up-to-date with developments in over 70 conflicts and crises, identifying trends and alerting them to risks of escalation and opportunities to advance peace.
Decline in Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces across country continued with winter weather. Gunmen 17 Dec killed five airport security guards and their driver in unclaimed attack in Kandahar. Security forces 21 Dec killed thirteen Taliban militants, including high profile Mullah Ramazan, and wounded fourteen, including local commander Mullah Mansour. Two civilians killed in roadside bomb in Laghman province 25 Dec. Suicide bombing in Lashkargah 26 Dec killed at least one policeman; MP wounded in explosion in Kabul 28 Dec. U.S. forces continued to attack Islamic State (IS) targets, including 13 Dec airstrike in Nangarhar province’s Achin district killing around a dozen suspected IS. Taliban 10 Dec claimed Mullah Haibatullah Akundzada had consolidated his position as leader after two senior Taliban pledged their support. Commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan 2 Dec accused Russia and Iran of helping legitimise Taliban in Afghanistan by developing political relations with its leadership; Senate 5 Dec announced investigation into claims while Moscow said contacts with insurgents were aimed at facilitating peace deal with Afghan govt. Representatives from Russia, China and Pakistan met to discuss IS threat in Afghanistan 27 Dec, warned of deteriorating security and increased IS influence; Kabul protested failure to invite Afghan govt. Concern over humanitarian situation continued to mount with OCHA reporting 530,470 people displaced by conflict in Afghanistan in 2016, highest since 2012. Attorney general 17 Dec opened investigation into accusations that First VP Abdul Rashid Dostum tortured and sexually assaulted relative of former governor of Jawzjan province; Dostum denied allegations, which fuelled further political tensions between him and President Ghani.
Onset of winter saw a decline in Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces though high profile attacks against international targets increased. Bombing of German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif 10 Nov killed at least four people, wounded over 100; Taliban claimed responsibility, claiming retaliation for 3 Nov NATO airstrike in Kunduz that killed over 30 civilians, half of them children. Alleged Taliban bomb attack at Bagram U.S. military base 12 Nov killed two American soldiers and two civilian consultants. Islamic State (IS) reportedly continued attacks in Kabul, claiming responsibility for 21 Nov bombing of Shia mosque which killed 30, and 16 Nov suicide attack on govt vehicle killing at least six. Defence Ministry 19 Nov said top IS commander Mullah Bozkorg killed in 18 Nov U.S. drone strike in Kot district, Nangarhar; at least seven other IS members reportedly killed 27 Nov in further airstrikes in Nangarhar. Security forces 22 Nov reportedly killed prominent Taliban leader Majid Zarqawi and two other militants during operation in Laghman province. As National Unity Government (NUG) continued to struggle with internal rivalries and waning public confidence, parliament’s lower house 12-16 Nov dismissed seven ministers, mostly allies of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, exacerbating longstanding tensions with executive and within NUG. Both Abdullah and President Ghani condemned move as politically motivated and sought Supreme Court’s interpretation of parliament’s authority. Returns from Pakistan and Iran continued, though fewer than previous month as weather grew colder, bringing 2016 total until end-Nov to over a million. Germany 17 Nov announced plans to keep 980 soldiers in Afghanistan through 2017 as part of NATO-led Resolute Support mission, encouraging other countries to make similar commitments.
President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah 4-5 Oct met with donors from over 70 countries at Brussels Conference on Afghanistan; donors pledged over $15.2bn in aid to support Afghanistan’s development through 2020. Prior to conference, EU and Afghanistan 2 Oct signed controversial migration agreement allowing EU member states to deport unlimited number of unsuccessful Afghan asylum seekers and obliging Afghanistan to accept them. In apparent show of force ahead of conference, Taliban 3 Oct launched twin attacks in Kunduz city and southern Helmand province, briefly gaining control of Kunduz before security forces retook city by next day. Over 100 Afghan soldiers reported killed in 11 Oct battle with Taliban in Helmand, where fighting continued throughout month. Taliban 11 Oct captured Ghormach district, Faryab province, retaken by security forces 20 Oct. In south, Uruzgan provincial officials reported several army posts had surrendered to Taliban during month, including three during past week; surrenders also reported in Kunduz and Helmand provinces. Officials 26 Oct said Islamic State (IS) had claimed responsibility for kidnap and killing of 30 civilians, including children, in Ghor province, reportedly shooting hostages in retaliation after security officials killed one IS operative in failed rescue attempt. Earlier in month, IS claimed responsibility for two attacks on Hazara community during commemoration of Shia holy day Ashura: gunmen 11 Oct killed eighteen in attack at Shia shrine in Kabul; IED blast outside mosque in northern Balkh province 12 Oct killed at least fifteen. UN 20 Oct expressed “grave concern over escalating conflict and IDP figures”. According to UN, over 411,000 Afghans displaced during first ten months of 2016. Amid rising internal displacement, influx of refugee returnees from Pakistan also continued, with over 39,000 reportedly returning 2-8 Oct. Pentagon 26 Oct said U.S. military killed senior al-Qaeda leaders Faruq al-Qatani and Bilal al-Utabi in drone strikes 23 Oct in Kunar province.
Twin suicide bombs targeting defence ministry and security forces in central Kabul 5 Sept killed around 35; Taliban claimed responsibility. Taliban 6 Sept stormed office of NGO CARE International, holding at least 40 hostages and killing one civilian; security forces rescued hostages same day, killed all three gunmen. Govt 22 Sept signed peace deal with country’s second-largest but largely dormant insurgent group Hizb-e-Islami, headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is accused of carrying out war crimes in 1990s. Deal controversially grants Hekmatyar amnesty, allows his return from exile on condition that his group accept constitution, renounce violence. Head of High Peace Council said he hoped deal could be “beginning of a permanent peace in our country”; hundreds protested against deal 22 Sept. In Kunduz, security forces 5 Sept retook strategically important Qala-e-Zal district, captured by Taliban late Aug; also retook Khanabad and Aliabad; police 3 Sept reported Kunduz-Takhar highway reopened. Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) 8 Sept successfully repelled Taliban assault on Uruzgan provincial capital Tarin Kot, which saw intermittent clashes late month. Second VP Mohammad Sarwar Danish 8 Sept said preparation for parliamentary elections scheduled for Oct and rollout of electronic identity cards had begun. However parliament rejected draft laws following week, increasing tensions with executive. National Unity Govt (NUG) marked two year anniversary 30 Sept, missing original deadline to implement electoral reforms and establish PM position. In 28 Sept statement Chief Executive Abdullah’s office said NUG and his position will continue for five years. Mass repatriation of Afghan refugees from Pakistan continued to overwhelm Afghanistan’s ability to resettle returnees, with 67,000 returning in Aug, up from 1,250 in June, and over 40,000 returning in a single week 18-24 Sept according to UNHCR. EU document leaked ahead of 4-5 Oct Brussels conference on Afghanistan revealed EU plans to condition aid on Afghanistan’s acceptance of 80,000 deported asylum seekers. UN 29 Sept said U.S. drone strike targeting Islamic State militants 28 Sept killed at least fifteen civilians in Nangarhar’s Achin district.
Taliban 10 Aug captured four strategic districts surrounding Helmand provincial capital Lashkar Gah; Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) prevented capture of city. Taliban 14 Aug captured Dahan-e-Ghori district, Baghlan province; 20 Aug temporarily captured Khanabad district, Kunduz. After five days of fighting, Taliban 26 Aug reportedly took control of Janikhail district, Paktia province. Hizb-e-Islami representative Ghairat Baheer 6 Aug said peace talks with Kabul govt expected to resume shortly. Unidentified militants 24 Aug attacked American University in Kabul, killing at least thirteen, mostly students. President’s office reportedly said National Directorate of Security (NDS) had “reliable evidence” attack was coordinated from Pakistan; President Ghani 25 Aug asked Pakistani Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to take action against culprits in Pakistan. Ahead of end of National Unity Government’s (NUG) two-year arrangement in Sept, oppositions groups reportedly criticised NUG for failure to deliver on key reforms. CEO Abdullah Abdullah 11 Aug denounced Ghani as unfit to govern, intensifying inter-factional tensions. Abdullah 8 Aug said NUG had developed roadmap for electoral reforms; President Ghani’s press office 15 Aug said finalised electoral law amendments would be sent to cabinet for approval.
Joint suicide attacks on ethnic Hazara protesters in Kabul 23 July killed at least 80 people, injured over 250, making it reportedly the deadliest in capital since 2001; Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility, marking first apparent IS attack in capital; Taliban condemned attack, denied involvement. President Ghani 15 July pledged major anti-IS operation after officials in Badakhshan province 10 July warned of IS activities in east. Afghan security forces 26 July reportedly killed top IS commander Saad Emarati in Kot district, Nangarhar. With fighting expected to escalate during Taliban’s annual summer offensive, defence ministry 2 July said Afghan National Defence and Security Force (ANDSF) had intensified operations in several districts across country. Taliban 21 July reportedly gained control of large portions of Qala-e-Zal and Dasht-e-Archi districts of Kunduz province following several days of intense clashes. Helmand official 30 July reported Taliban had taken control of Kanashin district. Noting recent security gains in Kandahar, province’s police chief 3 July claimed deaths of former Taliban leaders Mullah Omar and successor Akhtar Mansour had weakened insurgency, while Herat Provincial Council’s security committee 8 July warned of growing insurgency. Presidency 14 July confirmed govt has no plans to revive talks with Taliban. U.S. President Obama 6 July announced 8,400 U.S. troops would remain in Afghanistan until end of his term Jan 2017, changed rules of engagement to allow for direct combat with Taliban and more airstrikes. Series of drone strikes throughout month reportedly killed several dozen insurgents in Nangarhar province, including twelve killed in 11 July strike on IS radio station. At 8-9 July Warsaw Summit, NATO reaffirmed its commitment to Afghanistan, including Operation Resolute Support to train and assist Afghan security institutions through end-2017 and provide ANDSF with $4.5bn annually until 2020; govt committed to reforms including anti-corruption and transparency measures.
Parliament 13 June voted against President Ghani’s 5 March decree on electoral reform, sent to parliament late April, which had enabled release of international aid for elections to be held Oct; vote makes it highly unlikely elections will be held in 2016. Main opponent to decree Farah province MP Abdul Sabur Khedmat argued Ghani had no intention of holding elections and sent decree to Wolesi Jirga intending to deceive nation and block reform. Sirajuddin Haqqani, deputy to new Taliban leader Haibatullah Akhunzada, 15 June said Taliban only open to peace talks if international community agreed negotiations would conform to Sharia. Defence ministry 7 June said Afghan air force strike in Nangarhar province killed five Islamic State (IS) loyalists; U.S. drone strike in Paktika province 9 June killed alleged Haqqani Network facilitator. Military 14 June reported operation targeting Taliban hideouts in Jawzjan province killed fifteen insurgents; defence ministry 18 June said army released nine Taliban hostages in Helmand province. Police commander 3 June claimed Taliban hideouts installed 500m from Baghlan-Kunduz Highway, requiring large-scale operation to secure it. Taliban 30 June staged twin bomb attack on police convoy outside Kabul 30 June; reports of death toll vary from 27 to at least 40. Ghazni province officials 8 June said Taliban executed eleven security personnel who they had kidnapped 4 June. Explosion in Nangahar province mosque 10 June killed four civilians, wounded 50. Special representative on reform and good governance 4 June reported thousands of acres grabbed across country and major embezzlement in fuel contracts, but govt lacked political authority to tackle corruption. Report by NGO Global Witness 6 June said lapis lazuli mines driving corruption and extremism, earning Taliban and other armed groups up to $20mn annually.
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour killed in U.S. drone strike in Pakistan near Afghan border 21 May. Taliban 25 May named new leader Haibatullah Akhunzada; CEO Abdullah Abdullah called on new leader to join peace talks. High Peace Council (HPC) 18 May signed draft peace agreement with Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) insurgent group; includes govt commitment to make efforts to remove HIG and leaders from UN blacklist if HIG ends armed struggle, enters political process; agreement reportedly being verified but not yet signed by President Ghani. National Security Advisor 2 May said Islamabad should act against Afghan Taliban in Pakistan. Gains made against insurgents included: officials 7 May said at least 28 Taliban killed as security forces repelled major offensive in Ghaziabad district, Kunar province; security forces 22 May killed Taliban shadow governor of Helmand; National Directorate of Security 4 May reported it had foiled Haqqani Network plot in Kabul, arrested three suspects; Afghan National Police 11 May arrested suspected Taliban financial officer. Officials 17 May said Taliban cleared from Yakhchal area in Grishk district, Helmand. However Taliban spring offensive continued: officials 18 May reported Taliban capture of Baghlan province’s Surkh Kotal area; at least ten killed 10 May in suicide attack on pro-govt militia commander in Nangarhar province; one killed by rockets fired at Herat governor’s building 22 May; over 50 police reported killed 29-30 May in heavy fighting in Helmand; Taliban killed at least nine and kidnapped dozens of bus passengers in Kunduz 31 May. Several killed in clashes between Jamiat and Junbish party supporters in Almar district, Faryab province. Ethnic Hazaras protested in Kabul 16 May against late April cabinet decision not to route Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TUTAP) powerline through Hazara-majority Bamiyan province; Hazara leader and second deputy to CEO Adbullah 6 May threatened to stop cooperating with govt.
Taliban 12 April launched start of spring offensive “Operation Omeri”, with clashes throughout month further dimming hope of Taliban participation in peace process and contributing to increasingly strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad. In deadliest insurgent attack on Kabul since 2001, Taliban 19 April detonated car bomb and launched gun attack on National Directorate of Security office killing 64; CEO Abdullah Abdullah postponed Pakistan trip following attack. U.S. special envoy 10 April encouraged Pakistan to use influence to bring Taliban to negotiations. Govt 11 April said Taliban should join peace talks or face military action by Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) states; 28 April criticised Pakistan for reportedly allowing Taliban delegation visit to Islamabad. Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) insurgent group 2 April said govt elements trying to sabotage peace process, rejected allegations that its talks with High Peace Council (HPC) were aimed at obtaining ministries; 5 April dropped precondition of troop withdrawal, 18 April insisted on removal of leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s name from UN and U.S. blacklists. President Ghani 4 April said govt facing threats from al-Qaeda, Islamic State (IS), Taliban; acting defence minister warned al-Qaeda expanding. Taliban resumed attacks on police check points in Dand-e-Shahabuddin area, Baghlan province; five militants and two security forces killed 4-5 April. At least 45 IS loyalists reported killed in Nangarhar province by Afghan National Security Forces and U.S. drone strike 5-6 April. Dozens killed in other attacks during month, including twelve army recruits killed in 11 April suicide attack in Jalalabad; at least seven killed in suicide attacks in Parwan and Kandahar provinces 5-6 April. U.S. 29 April released report detailing events of 2015 Kunduz hospital bombing.
Taliban 5 March announced it would not participate in direct talks with govt until all preconditions have been met, including foreign troop withdrawal, release of Taliban prisoners, removal of Taliban names from UN sanctions list. President Ghani addressing parliament next day warned Taliban must “choose whether they want peace or war”. Hizb-e-Islami insurgent group representatives 17 March met with High Peace Council, maintained demands for foreign troop withdrawal and “establishment of legitimate Islamic system”. Ghani 5 March issued long-awaited constitutional decree on electoral reform to enable release of international financial assistance urgently needed for elections to be held in Oct. Afghan and Pakistani border forces 6 March exchanged mortar and rocket fire across border in Nangarhar province. Clashes between rival Taliban factions led by Mullah Akhtar Mansour and Mullah Mohammad Rasool in Herat’s Shindbad district 10 March reportedly resulted in 100 deaths. Over a dozen security forces killed in clash with Taliban in Uruzgan province in south 29 March; two police and several insurgents reported killed in fighting in Balkh province in north 30 March; Herat provincial officials reported some 100 militants killed during security operation to regain control of Shindand district late month. Thirteen Taliban killed 23 March in Ghazni province during clash with security forces. Multiple suicide attacks included: attack near Indian consulate in Jalalabad 2 March killing two; attack in Kabul 5 March reportedly killed three people. In Helmand province, ten Taliban and three police killed in attack on govt buildings 9 March. New commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan 22 March issued formal apology for 2015 Kunduz hospital bombing. UN SRSG Nicholas Haysom 15 March warned UNSC that Afghan govt’s survival in 2016 “will be an achievement”.
Fighting continued to worsen ahead of proposed talks between govt and Taliban early March. Officials 20 Feb reported Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) pulled out of Helmand’s Musa Qala district after dozens of police and soldiers were killed across province mid-month. Several police killed in heavy fighting in Sangin district 14 Feb. Badakhshan provincial governor 18 Feb reported Jurm and Yamgan districts completely under Taliban control. MPs from Baghlan province 3 Feb said Sept 2015 deal between Dand-e-Ghori regional govt and Taliban led to increased insecurity in N Afghanistan and Baghlan. CEO Abdullah 5 Feb said continued NATO troop support for ANSF essential. U.S. National Intelligence Director 10 Feb warned Afghanistan at “serious risk of political breakdown” in 2016; UN 14 Feb reported 2015 saw highest number of civilian casualties recorded since 2009. Taliban splinter group 6 Feb released video calling new Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour puppet of Pakistani intelligence agency, declared nationwide military campaign against Mansour. Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and U.S. met in Islamabad 6 Feb, discussed Afghan peace process; Afghan officials 23 Feb said govt expects to meet with Taliban early March. At least 26 people killed in two separate suicide bombings 27 Feb in Kumar province and Kabul; Taliban claimed responsibility for Kabul attack. Five ICRC staff kidnapped 16 Feb in Ghazni province, released three days later. President Ghani 9 Feb approved mass media law seeking to promote freedom of speech, but prohibiting content contrary to Islam, offensive to other religions, or defamatory.
Afghan, Pakistani, U.S., Chinese delegates met in Islamabad 11 Jan and Kabul 18 Jan to discuss mechanisms for reviving talks with Taliban, following late Dec meeting between President Ghani and Pakistani army chief. CEO Abdullah’s deputy spokesman said Pakistani officials had pledged to provide Kabul with list of Taliban leaders willing to negotiate, and that Islamabad had agreed to cut off financial support to Taliban. Nangarhar governor 12 Jan said twelve-member Taliban group joined govt-initiated peace process in his province. Independent Election Commission 18 Jan announced long-delayed parliamentary and district council elections to be held 15 Oct; CEO Abdullah’s deputy spokesman called decision illegitimate. Rival Taliban factions reportedly agreed to end violent infighting 1 Jan. Insurgents continued to made gains in south and north, as heavy fighting continued in Helmand, Takhar and elsewhere. Unidentified gunmen 4 Jan attacked Indian consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province; three insurgents and one police killed. One U.S. soldier killed by Taliban in Marjah, Helmand 5 Jan; U.S. conducted airstrikes in area 6 Jan. Seven journalists killed in Taliban suicide car bomb attack in Kabul 20 Jan. Helmand police chief claimed around 120 Taliban insurgents killed 4-6 Jan in Marjah. Taliban and Islamic State (IS) clashed in Batikot and Chaparhar of Nangarhar province early Jan, dozens killed. Suicide attack on Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad 13 Jan killed seven police, IS claimed responsibility. U.S. 21 Jan said military authorised to target IS in Afghanistan. Security officials 2 Jan reported ten-day operation against IS in Nangarhar killed 150 fighters. Suicide bomber 17 Jan killed at least thirteen at home of tribal elder in Jalalabad.