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Pashtun Taliban Insurgency - 2017

Three ministries have responsibility for law enforcement and maintenance of order in the country: the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the NDS. The ANP, under the Interior Ministry, has primary responsibility for internal order and for the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a community-based self-defense force. The Afghan National Army, under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security, but its primary activity is fighting the insurgency internally. The NDS functions as an intelligence agency and has responsibility for investigating criminal cases concerning national security. The investigative branch of the NDS operated a facility in Kabul, where it held national security prisoners awaiting trial until their cases went to prosecution. Some areas were outside of government control, and antigovernment forces, including the Taliban, oversaw their own justice and security systems.

There were major attacks on civilians by armed insurgent groups and targeted assassinations by armed insurgent groups of persons affiliated with the government. The Taliban and other insurgents continued to kill security force personnel and civilians using indiscriminate tactics such as improvised explosive devices (IEDs), suicide attacks, and rocket attacks, and to commit disappearances and torture. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 67 percent of civilian casualties (1,141 deaths and 3,574 injured) to nonstate actors. The Taliban used children as suicide bombers, soldiers, and weapons carriers. Other antigovernment elements threatened, robbed, kidnapped, and attacked government workers, foreigners, medical and nongovernmental organization (NGO) workers, and other civilians.

There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings or injuries by the Taliban, ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), and other insurgent groups. UNAMA reported 1,141 civilian deaths due to antigovernment and terrorist forces in the first six months of the year. These groups caused 67 percent of total civilian casualties, a 12 percent increase from 2016. On May 31, antigovernment forces injured more than 500 civilians and killed an additional 150 in a vehicle-borne IED attack against civilians during rush hour on a busy street in Kabul.

NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians. On April 22, the government approved a new Anti-Torture Law, which expands the previous prohibition on torture contained in the original penal code. The new law, however, applies only to torture committed in the context of the criminal justice system and does not clearly extend to torture committed by military or other security forces.

UNAMA, in its 24 April 2017 Report on the Treatment of Conflict-Related Detainees, cited multiple reports of torture and other abuse committed by security forces, most frequently after the initial arrest, during interrogation, and with the purpose of eliciting confessions. The UNAMA report noted a high concentration of torture and abuse by police in Kandahar Province. Of the 469 National Directorate for Security (NDS), ANP, and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) detainees interviewed, 39 percent reported torture or other abuse. Types of abuse included severe beatings, electric shocks, prolonged suspension by the arms, suffocation, wrenching of testicles, burns by cigarette lighters, sleep deprivation, sexual assault, and threats of execution.

In November 2016, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum allegedly kidnapped Uzbek tribal elder and political rival Ahmad Ishchi. Before detaining Ishchi, Dostum let his bodyguards brutally beat him. After several days in detention, Ishchi alleged he was beaten, tortured, and raped by Dostum and his men. On August 14, Balkh Governor Atta Mohammed Noor allegedly attempted to arrest his political rival Asif Mohmand. The ensuing shootout resulted in three deaths and 13 persons injured. There were reports that Atta and his sons then detained and beat Mohmand and bit off a piece of his ear. The Attorney Generals Office opened investigations into both of the cases. As of September 16, there was no progress on either case, and both Dostum and Atta remained free. Dostum was no longer in the country, and he had not been allowed to exercise his duties as first vice president pending resolution of the legal charges against him.

The increase in complex suicide attacks was evidenced by repeated attacks in Kabul. On January 10, a Taliban suicide attack in Kabul killed more than 30 individuals and injured some 70 others, as twin blasts hit a crowded area of the city during the afternoon rush hour. On May 31, a truck bomb exploded, killing 150 and injuring 500 outside the German embassy in Kabul. While no group claimed responsibility, protesters took to the streets on June 2, accusing government officials of cooperating with terrorists. Police shot and killed five protesters, including Salem Izidyar, the eldest son of Deputy Speaker of the Senate Alam Izidyar. At Izidyars funeral three suicide bombers struck on foot, killing at least a dozen persons.

Antigovernment elements continued to attack religious leaders who they concluded spoke against the insurgency or the Taliban. On September 9, Taliban gunmen on motorcycles in the Kohestan district of Kapisa Province killed Mawlawi Gul Mohammad Hanifyar, head of the Kapisa Ulema Council. The Kapisa police chief reported the arrest of five suspects in the case. According to UNAMAs statistics, this was the 12th targeted assassination of a religious leader by the Taliban or other antigovernment forces during the year, more than double the number in 2016.

Antigovernment elements also continued to target government officials and entities throughout the country. On January 10, an explosion killed 12 individuals, including Kandahars deputy governor, Abdul Ali Shamsi, and Afghan diplomat, Yama Quraishi, at a guesthouse on Kandahar governor Humayun Azizis compound. Injured in the attack were 14 individuals, including United Arab Emirates ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi, who later died from his injuries.

The security environment continued to have a negative effect on the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country. Insurgents deliberately targeted government employees and aid workers. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local individuals, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into the country and distribute them. Antigovernment elements increased their targeting of hospitals and aid workers compared with 2016.

There were about 9,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Most are in noncombat roles, aimed at training and advising Afghan forces, since U.S.-led NATO troops ended their combat mission in 2014. But since taking over security control of the country, the Afghan military has been losing ground to the Taliban. The Kabul government now controls just over half of the country. Top Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, conceded the U.S. was not winning the war. The war was also expensive. The US was expected to spend about $45 billion on Afghanistan this year alone.

The ability to reverse course in Afghanistan had been hindered by the government's struggles to stop Taliban advances without assistance. The Taliban controlled almost half the country. Afghan forces erre also fighting an IS affiliate that had gained a foothold primarily in eastern Afghanistan, presenting an additional challenge without prospects of a near-term solution.

The UN in its 2017 annual report on Afghanistan and Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict indicates that CIVCAS caused by Pro-government Forces (ANDSF) in ground engagements are down 37% from 2016. ANDSF capabilities to prevent and track civilian casualties (CIVCAS) and assist victims are steadily improving. Like the U.S., the ANDSF adheres to the Law of Armed Conflict and constantly endeavors to prevent CIVCAS during operations. ANDSF capabilities for tracking, investigating, and compensating CIVCAS related to ANDSF operations have greatly improved due to consistent RS and USFOR-A train, advise, and assist (TAA) efforts.

In the fall of 2017 after President Trumps announcement of the South Asia Strategy, the Taliban deliberately shifted its approach from conventional terrain-focused operations to guerilla tactics and terrorist attacks. These tactics include raids against outlying districts and remote checkpoints, intended to gain media attention, inflict casualties on the ANDSF, and avoid decisive engagements. These tactics also cause high civilian casualties.

By year's end 65% of the Afghan population lived in areas controlled or influenced by the Government of Afghanistan, while only 12% live in areas controlled or influenced by insurgents. The remainder are in contested areas. 87% of Afghan people believe a return to Taliban rule would be bad for the country. After 40 years of war, the Afghan people strongly desire peace, as evidenced by the calls of the Afghanistan Ulema and the grass roots peace movement.

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Page last modified: 06-09-2018 17:41:30 ZULU