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CrisisWatch

Tracking Conflict Worldwide

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.

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October 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Insecurity persisted as Islamic State Khorasan Province launched dozens of attacks, killing scores, and land disputes resurfaced amid dire food crisis across country. Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) significantly ramped up its activities against Taliban, carrying out dozens of attacks, including three that caused mass casualties. Notably, ISIS-K 3 Oct killed five civilians attending funeral for Taliban spokesperson’s mother in capital Kabul; 8 Oct killed more than 40 civilians at Shiite mosque in Kunduz province (north); 15 Oct killed at least 50 civilians at Shiite mosque in Kandahar city (south). Additionally, smaller-scale attacks against Taliban security personnel occurred daily throughout country, notably in Nangarhar (east), Kunar (east) and Kunduz (north) provinces. In response, Taliban raided ISIS-K hideouts in Kabul, Parwan (east) and Kunduz (north) provinces, killing ISIS-K members and family members, arrested hundreds of ISIS-K suspects, particularly in Nangarhar (east) and Kunar (east), and increased checkpoints to limit freedom of movement between provinces. Separately, Northern Resistance Front maintained low-level resistance, launching small-scale attacks in Panjshir and Parwan provinces (north). UN warned of unprecedented levels of hunger as drought and economic crisis left half country acutely food insecure, according to 25 Oct UN assessment. Ethnic and tribal tensions increased due to competition over resources. In Daikundi and Ghazni provinces (centre), land disputes led to displacement of ethnic minority Hazaras. In Daikundi province, two-decade-old land dispute between Pashtun tribes of northern Uruzgan and Hazaras of Daikundi resurfaced. On political front, Taliban 5 Oct announced additional govt appointments, including Maulawi Abdul Kabir as Deputy PM for Political Affairs, Maulawi Matiul Haq, son of Younus Khali, as head of Red Crescent, and Nurudding Turabi as his deputy; 28 Oct announced Maulawi Abdul Hakim Haqqani as head of Supreme Court. Internationally, despite meetings with U.S., Russian, Turkish and Indian officials during month, Taliban made little progress to gain formal recognition of govt, and to get country’s financial assets unfrozen by U.S. govt. However, working relations continued with Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, China and Kyrgyzstan; relations with Pakistan deteriorated amid border skirmishes after Taliban accused Islamabad of implementing restrictions on transit of goods and people.

September 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Amid worsening humanitarian crisis and crackdown on protests, Taliban tightened its grip across country, including by gaining control over Panjshir province. After initial negotiation efforts failed, Taliban 2 Sept stepped up efforts to capture last stronghold of Panjshir province (north) as group sent troops, set up blockade and cut off telecommunications, food and other supplies from getting to valley. Taliban 6 Sept gained control of provincial capital, marking first time group controls city; Ahmad Massoud, leader of Northern Resistance Front, same day vowed to resist and called for large-scale protests. Series of anti-Taliban protests took place in early Sept; notably, hundreds of people, including women, 7 Sept protested in capital Kabul chanting anti-Pakistan slogans and “freedom”; amid rising crackdown on demonstrators, Taliban 9 Sept cut off internet and phone services to several suburbs of Kabul to disrupt coordination among protesters. Taliban 7-8 Sept announced new acting govt composed of old guard, including Mohammad Hassan Akhund, group’s founding member, as PM; Abdul Ghani Baradar, lead negotiator in U.S.-Taliban Feb 2020 deal, as deputy PM; Mohammad Yaqub, son of group’s first leader Mohammad Omar, as defence minister; Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of prominent militant Jalaluddin Haqqani, as interior minister; and Amir Khan Muttaqi, veteran Taliban diplomat, as FM. First slate of cabinet appointments excluded women and several ethnic groups (only small minority of appointments are non-Pashtuns); no state had yet recognised new govt by end of month. Following U.S. freeze in mid-Aug over country’s financial assets and aid suspension, concerns rose over economic collapse, humanitarian crisis and potential mass exodus; donors 13 Sept pledged more than $1.1 billion following UN flash appeal for humanitarian assistance. Aside from sporadic violence in Panjshir and Baghlan provinces, violent incidents reportedly six times lower than 2021 average prior to Taliban take-over. There was, however, increasing trend of incidents targeting Taliban’s security forces, with majority being claimed by Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K): notably, roadside bombs near daily mid-to-late month targeted Taliban vehicles in Nangarhar province (east); bomb 18 Sept attacked private vehicle leaving two civilians injured.

August 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

In rapid takeover, Taliban regained control over country, prompting fall of govt and ending 20-year U.S. occupation; uncertainty over new political order fuelled domestic and international security concerns. In dramatic shift, govt 15 Aug collapsed and Taliban gained control of most territory, including all border crossings and major urban centres – with notable exception of Panjshir Valley province (north). As Taliban reached capital Kabul, President Ghani 15 Aug fled abroad, along with many other govt officials. Govt’s fall prompted mass exodus of Afghans fearing Taliban retaliation, notably causing chaos at Hamid Karzai International Airport; two bombs 26 Aug exploded outside Kabul airport, reportedly killing as many as 200 Afghans and 13 U.S. service members; Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) claimed responsibility. Following Taliban’s takeover, U.S. mid-Aug froze Afghanistan’s central bank reserves in U.S. while International Monetary Fund and World Bank suspended payments to country; UN and humanitarian organisations called for continued assistance to country amid dire humanitarian crisis. Regional and international partners to Afghanistan had yet to announce positions on sanctions, financial aid and recognition of new govt by month’s end, waiting for Taliban to make meaningful compromises in new political order. Taliban’s rapid advances in early Aug partly due to local ‘surrender deals’ which granted safe passage to security forces in return for weapons and district centres as insurgents late July to mid-Aug launched simultaneous attacks on provincial capitals in south, east and north. Following initial hearty resistance, particularly in Helmand province (south), Kandahar city (south) and Herat province (west), insurgents captured provincial capitals in lightly defended areas. Taliban 6 Aug held first provincial capital in Nimroz province (south west), gaining control of last remaining border crossing to Iran under govt oversight; 7 Aug captured capital of Jawzjan province (north); 9 Aug captured provinces of Sar-e Pul (north) and Kunduz (north), second largest city in north; 12 Aug captured Ghazni (centre), Kandahar (south), Herat (west) and Badghis (north west). Loss of Herat and Kandahar, notably important cities, seemed to have broken security forces’ moral, who following day had abandoned provincial capitals of Helmand (south), Logar (east), Uruzgan (south), Zabul (south) and Ghor (centre) provinces.

July 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban forces continued nationwide offensive, launching first assault on Kandahar city since Western intervention in 2001 and seizing more international border crossings. Taliban continued to make territorial advances throughout month, mostly in north and north west, and gained strategically important border crossings. Taliban attacks 5 July killed 16 security forces in Herat province (west), which saw all but two districts fall under Taliban control during month, and 6 July killed 65 security forces in Badghis (north west). Taliban 12 July killed 25 security forces in Kandahar province (south), in which group had encircled Kandahar city, and fighting remained ongoing in its outskirts by end of month; assault on city, largest in southern Afghanistan and de facto capital of former Taliban regime in 1990s, is first since Western intervention in 2001 and could mark moment of strategic importance in conflict; govt poured resources into defence of city. Taliban 14 July killed 11 security forces in Takhar province (north). In addition to seizing 26 of 28 districts in Badakhshan province (north east), Taliban fighters 5 July seized control of border crossing with Iran in Herat province (west) and 14 July took over border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar province. Govt forces rebounded slightly by shoring up defence of provincial capitals. Govt 8 July briefly drove back Taliban after they entered capital of Badghis province (north west). Govt defences also held in other provinces, such as Ghazni (centre), Helmand (south) and Kandahar (south) during month. Anti-Taliban militia also rallied in urban centres, such as northern city Mazar-e Sharif. Meanwhile, peace process remained stalled despite high-level meetings between govt and Taliban’s political office in Iran’s capital Tehran (7-8 July) and Qatar’s capital Doha (17-18 July); further high-level talks expected in August. Internationally, tensions heightened with Islamabad. Afghan VP Amrullah Saleh 15 July alleged Pakistani air force requested Afghan govt not to attack Taliban positions on border, which Pakistan’s MFA denied. Kabul 18 July withdrew its ambassador and senior diplomats from Islamabad, alleging kidnapping of ambassador’s daughter.

June 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban sustained major offensive, gaining additional district centres and killing over 500 Afghan security forces; deadly terror attacks targeted minority Hazara community. Taliban forced govt troops, police and militia to retreat from more than 50 districts, most in north and north east, throughout month; while Taliban often declined to occupy space, gains constitute significant loss in govt’s territorial standing, revealing structural weaknesses in Afghan security forces. Taliban 21 June also seized control of main border crossing with Tajikistan. In series of attacks, Taliban 2 June killed 40 govt forces in border area of Nangarhar (east); 4 June killed 11 security forces in Herat province (west); 5 June killed 26 security forces in Badakhshan (north east) and Badghis (north west); 9 June killed 21 soldiers in Badakhshan and Nimroz provinces (south west); 12 June killed 20 security forces in Ghor province (centre). Taliban 6 June also killed 17 security forces in truck bombing in Balkh province (north), and same day killed 28 security forces in another car bombing in Faryab province (north). In coming months, potential for Taliban to overrun provincial capitals is high. Meanwhile, a more organic form of popular resistance to Taliban emerged in several provinces, including Baghlan, Takhar and Badakhshan. Deadly terror attacks targeting ethnic Hazara minority persisted. In capital Kabul, bombings against civilians 1 and 3 June killed at least 14 and wounded 17 more in Hazara neighbourhoods. Unknown armed men 8 June attacked staff of international charity clearing land mines and attempted to single out Hazara employees, killing ten and injuring 16 in Baghlan Province (north). Additional attack on humanitarians 15 June killed at least five polio vaccinators in Nangarhar province (east). President Ghani 20 June announced replacement of army chief of staff, defence minister and interior minister amid rising casualties in Afghan security forces. Ghani, Vice President Saleh, top advisers and chief rival Abdullah 24-25 June visited U.S. capital Washington, met with U.S. President Biden and top U.S. officials to reaffirm commitments to fund and support Afghan govt and security forces.

May 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban intensified coordinated assaults on Afghan military positions, with govt forces losing more district centres; terror attacks killed over 100 civilians. Deadly Taliban attacks escalated in nature and intensity throughout month as part of annual Spring offensive, especially from 1 May – start of symbolic U.S./NATO troop withdrawal. Notably, Taliban 2 May attacked security post, killing 12 security forces in Badakhshan province (north east); 3 May seized positions around Helmand’s capital (south) with 18 security forces killed or wounded; 4 May killed nine security forces in Baghlan province (north), followed by the surrender of 100 more on 6 May; 4 May killed 20 soldiers in Farah province (south west); and 7-8 May killed 23 soldiers in Ghazni and Wardak provinces (centre). Taliban offensive led to militants gaining control of district centres in Laghman, Wardak and Baghlan by end of month. Month also saw heavy toll on civilians: triple bombing 8 May targeted school in Hazara neighbourhood in capital Kabul, killing at least 90 civilians, mostly women and girls, and wounding 240 more; govt blamed Taliban for attack but group denied responsibility. IEDs on bus 10 May killed 11 civilians in Zabul province (South); bomb 14 May exploded in mosque, killing 12 civilians in capital Kabul, Islamic State later claimed responsibility for attack. Roadside bomb 16 May also killed three civilians in Ghanzi province (East). Large Uzbek ethnic community in Faryab province (north) demonstrated angrily against govt’s attempt to appoint new governor with no ties to province or Uzbek community. U.S. and UK continued high-level diplomatic efforts to support peace process by engaging with senior Pakistani officials and Taliban representatives; moves resulted in resumption of Taliban-govt peace discussions in Qatar’s capital Doha 13 and 24 May and statement of willingness from Taliban to attend high-level peace conference in Turkey in future, with conditions. Australia withdrew embassy from Kabul amid increasing international concerns about security environment.

April 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban attacks continued at high intensity amid signs group could be gearing up for May offensive, while U.S. announced full troop withdrawal by 11 Sept 2021. Taliban continued daily violent attacks in several key areas suggesting preparation for large-scale offensive in coming months, likely after 1 May – date on which U.S. forces are supposed to withdraw according to Feb 2020 deal. In Kunduz province (north), significant Taliban attacks 6, 11, 14 April killed ten police officers on outskirts of Kunduz city, and attacks in border town of Imam Saheb district 6 and 15 April killed at least seven security personnel and as many as eight Taliban militants. In Sar-e Pul province (north), Taliban attacks 9 and 11 April killed five security forces, marking unusually high level of violence in province. In Zabul province (south), Taliban attack involving car bomb 15 April killed ten soldiers on military base in Shahjoy district. In Balkh province (north), Taliban attacks 13 and 22 April killed 18 soldiers and eight more were taken as prisoners. In Qarabagh district in Ghazni province (centre), fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban displaced around 650 families. In Logar province (east), car bomb 30 April killed at least 27 people and injured over 100. Targeted killings continued across country, although attacks decreased in capital Kabul throughout month; notably, gunmen 18 April killed Afghan Air Force member and 21 April killed university security guard in Mazar-e Sharif city (north). In Kandahar province (south), insider attack at security outpost 11 April killed eight police officers. In major announcement, U.S. President Biden 14 April said U.S. will start evacuating remaining troops from 1 May and intends to fully withdraw from Afghanistan by 11 Sept 2021. Responding to leaked reports, Taliban 13 April rejected U.S.-proposed summit on Afghan Peace Process in Turkey on 24 April on basis that they refuse to attend any Afghan peace summit until all foreign forces are pulled out of Afghanistan; Ankara later confirmed summit postponed. U.S. continued to support diplomatic efforts and rally regional and international consensus to pressure Taliban to remain engaged in talks.

March 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Deadly attacks targeted women and Hazara community as Taliban continued assaults and clashes erupted between security forces and Hazara militia; U.S. proposed new peace plan. Following brief lull in violence late Feb, attacks – particularly targeting women, children and Hazara community – rose during first half of month. In Nangarhar (east), three separate attacks claimed by Islamic State’s Khorasan Province branch 2-3 March killed three female journalists and one female doctor, and armed gunmen 3 March killed seven Hazara civilians. Two IEDs in Hazara-majority neighbourhoods in capital Kabul 13 March killed four women and one child. Taliban attacks continued at high intensity in Nimroz, Kunduz, Daikundi, Sar-e-Pul provinces and elsewhere; notably, attacks targeting security outposts 19 and 22 March killed 11 and wounded ten in Baghlan province, and attack by Taliban infiltrator 13 March killed eight soldiers in Balkh province. In Wardak province (centre), tensions rose between security forces and Hazara militia after helicopter 18 March shot down by likely advanced weaponry, killing at least ten govt soldiers; govt forces responded by retaking Behsud district centre, under control of Hazara militia leader Abdul Ghani Alipur, raising prospect of clashes in coming month. Meanwhile, in Khost province (east), U.S. Central Intelligence Agency-backed paramilitary group Khost Provincial Force (KPF) 8 March killed 15 civilians during military operation against Taliban in Spera district. On diplomatic front, U.S. early month outlined multi-part peace plan in letter to Afghan leaders, proposing UN-led regional conference, interim power-sharing govt between Taliban and Afghan leaders, and high-level meeting hosted by Turkey to finalise agreement; U.S. Envoy Zalmay Khalizad shared plan with Taliban and Pakistan during visits to Qatari capital Doha and Pakistani capital Islamabad 4-9 March; letter also noted U.S. yet to make decision on whether to completely withdraw forces by 1 May deadline; uncertainty over U.S. decision raises prospect of Taliban dropping self-imposed restrictions on attacks on provincial capitals and large-scale urban attacks, potentially escalating violence in run up to 1 May – or at least thereafter. Moscow 18 March hosted dialogue attended by China, Pakistan, Iran, India, Afghan political leaders and Taliban; President Ghani did not attend.

February 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban continued deadly attacks, while U.S. reviewed Afghan strategy ahead of May deadline for foreign troop withdrawal. Taliban launched deadly attacks in north and east while group continued slow-but-steady expansion of territorial lines in south as two district centres in Zabul province fell under its control. Taliban attack 3 Feb killed six police officers in Badghis province (north west); separate attacks same day killed 11 security officers in Nangarhar (east) and Sar-e Pul (north) provinces. Taliban 5 Feb killed 18 govt forces while overrunning National Directorate of Security support base in Kunduz province (north); 8 Feb killed 11 soldiers in Balkh province (north); Taliban same day killed three security forces in Ghor province (centre). Five security forces 11 Feb also killed after coming under Taliban attack while escorting UN convoy from capital Kabul to Jalalabad city. Taliban 15 Feb killed seven pro-govt militia members in Kunduz province (north); 17 Feb killed ten pro-govt militia and police in Daikundi province (centre). Meanwhile, after intra-Afghan peace talks abruptly ended in late Jan, negotiators 22 Feb returned to Qatar’s capital Doha to work on agenda. Priority for Afghan govt, U.S. and NATO is reduction in violence leading to ceasefire; Taliban so far have resisted all calls for ceasefire. U.S. Biden administration continued review of strategy in Afghanistan, including whether Taliban respected commitments under Feb 2020 agreement. In open letter, Taliban 16 Feb called on U.S. to honour 2020 agreement and to withdraw international troops by 1 May; U.S. Sec State Antony Blinken next day discussed strategic review in call with President Ghani, said that U.S. is committed to peace deal that includes “just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”. NATO defence ministers next day met, but no decision made on whether or when to pull out of Afghanistan; NATO Sec Gen Jens Stoltenberg said alliance would postpone final decision and work with U.S. Sec Def General Lloyd Austin on way forward. Austin next day told reporters that Biden administration had not yet made decision but would consult with allies and partners.

January 2021

Asia

Afghanistan

Taliban stepped up deadly attacks on Afghan security forces, killing dozens; intra-Afghan peace talks resumed after short hiatus. Taliban conducted attacks at high intensity despite winter weather that typically ushers in period of reduced violence; while there was no strategic shift in conflict dynamics, sustained high tempo of conflict could strain intra-Afghan peace process. Taliban infiltrators inside security forces perpetrated numerous attacks involving shootings and poisoning, including: 4 Jan killed nine forces in Kandahar province (south); next day killed seven soldiers in Ghazni province (centre); 8 Jan killed five soldiers in Herat province (west); and 15 Jan killed 13 police officers. Taliban 14 Jan also attacked security outposts in Baghlan (north), killing nine security personnel; repeat attack 18 Jan killed another nine. Taliban attacks on military bases and security posts in Kunduz province (north) 7, 15 and 19 Jan killed 49 security personnel. Meanwhile, Afghan forces backed by U.S. air support repelled Taliban advances around Kandahar city throughout month. Afghan air force bombing 9 Jan killed 18 civilians, mostly children, in Nimroz province (south west); govt allegedly attempted to cover up number of casualties prompting local protests in provincial capital Zarange. Targeted killings by unidentified assailants continued: gunmen 1 Jan killed prominent local journalist Bismillah Adil Aimaq in Ghor province (centre); gunmen 17 Jan killed two female Supreme Court judges in capital Kabul. As violence surged, First VP Amrullah Saleh 18 Jan declared “capital punishment is needed to stop the wave of terror”, referring to imprisoned Taliban fighters. Following three-week break, intra-Afghan negotiations resumed without making significant progress: U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 4-5 Jan returned to Qatar’s capital Doha to meet Taliban, then flew to Kabul to meet Afghan officials. President Ghani declined to meet with Khalilzad after reports he discussed possible interim govt with opposition political leaders. Following call between new U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib 22 Jan, White House same day said Biden administration will review Feb 2020 agreement “to assess whether the Taliban was living up to its commitments”.

December 2020

Asia

Afghanistan

High-intensity violence persisted and intra-Afghan peace talks remained delayed ahead of planned U.S. military drawdown in Jan. Taliban continued to attack district centres in Kunduz, Farah, Uruzgan, Baghlan and elsewhere despite previous self-imposed restrictions regarding reprisals in urban areas. Unclaimed killings and smaller explosions continued to target activists, journalists and other non-combatants around capital Kabul; unknown gunmen 22 Dec attacked vehicle of govt-employed doctors who treat prisoners (including Taliban and Islamic State fighters) at Pul-e Charkhi prison. In Ghazni province, attack 18 Dec killed at least 15 civilians, mostly children, and wounded 20 others; car bomb in Kabul targeting Afghan parliament member Khan Mohammad Wardak 20 Dec killed at least ten civilians and wounded 52 others. Islamic State’s Khorasan Province branch (IS-KP) claimed responsibility for several attacks, including shooting of journalist Malala Maiwand in Jalalabad city on 10 Dec. IS-KP also claimed multiple attacks in Kabul, notably rocket attacks 12 Dec that killed one and injured two, and additional rockets 10 Dec that targeted U.S. Bagram Airfield. Meanwhile, in positive step, govt finalised formation of High Council of National Reconciliation, which 5 Dec convened for first time. Despite initial progress in intra-Afghan talks, U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad 14 Dec announced both negotiating teams would take 20 days to “consult on the agenda items”, delaying intra-Afghan negotiations until 5 Jan. Agendas leaked 20-21 Dec illustrated stark differences between govt and Taliban regarding fundamental purpose of talks; notably, govt reportedly proposed ceasefire as first topic, while Taliban proposed it as final topic. Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Christopher Miller 22 Dec arrived in Kabul in unannounced visit and met with President Ghani, as U.S. military proceeded to reduce its forces from 4,500 to 2,500 in Jan in line with announcement made in Nov.

November 2020

Asia

Afghanistan

High-intensity hostilities continued as Taliban attacked areas around Kandahar, while U.S. announced troop drawdown and intra-Afghan peace process remained stalled. Taliban activity surged from late-Oct until 3-4 Nov, including series of large-scale attacks and operations in three districts surrounding Kandahar (south), country’s second-largest city; U.S. reportedly stepped up aerial bombardment of Taliban positions, allowing govt forces to re-enter contested districts; assault in Kandahar largely ended by 10 Nov. Elsewhere, Taliban ended self-imposed restrictions on attacking district centres, particularly in north, with attacks in Badghis (north west) and northern Balkh, Kunduz and Jowjzan provinces, including on main highway in latter; operations included Taliban 18 Nov seizing district centre in Badakhshan (north east) in surprise attack on govt forces that caused heavy casualties. However, more mountainous areas during month saw fall in conflict activity with onset of winter weather conditions. Car bomb in Ghazni province (centre) 29 Nov killed at least 30 members of security forces. In major announcement, Washington 17 Nov said it would reduce total number of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan from 4,500 to 2,500 by mid-Jan, raising concern over potential surge in Taliban activity thereafter. Islamic State-Khorasan Province 2 Nov killed over 20 people in attack on Kabul University and 21 Nov killed at least eight in rocket attack in capital Kabul. Meanwhile, intra-Afghan talks in Qatar’s capital Doha remained stalled. Taliban and govt representatives 15-18 Nov appeared to agree on compromise over procedure and protocol for negotiations; however, agreement fell apart before being officially confirmed, reportedly under pressure from President Ghani who opposed substance and circumstances of agreement. U.S. Sec State Pompeo 21 Nov travelled to Doha to meet with govt and Taliban negotiators. At conference in Geneva, donors 24 Nov pledged some $12bn in aid for next four years.