The Taliban Is the Main Perpetrator of Violence Against Civilians

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recently released a report entitled “Tracking Disorder During Taliban Rule in Afghanistan.” The report discusses the rise of violence against civilians, the rise of political violence against women, the origins of violence against civilians, the rise of resistance against the Taliban, the Taliban’s confrontation with the ISKP, and the Taliban’s infighting. According to the organization, the data released will help in understanding the cohesion of the Taliban in trying to transform from “an insurgent group” to “a government”. In the introduction, the report states that after the fall of Kabul to Taliban forces, violence towards civilians has persisted in Afghanistan, adding that acquiring information on risks has been severely impacted.

The report says that since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, cases of human rights abuses and violence against civilians have increased in the country, and with the escalation of violence and systematic Taliban discrimination against women over political participation, Afghanistan is now among the top 10 countries in war, according to ACLED.

The Taliban is the major perpetrator of violence against civilians

ACLED reports that since the fall of Kabul, civilians have been targeted by the Taliban, ISKP, and unidentified armed groups. But the Taliban have been the major prepetrators of violence. The organization has blamed the Taliban for more than half of the violence recorded since last August. ACLED says civilians have been targeted by the Taliban because of their profession, ethnicity and religion. Despite announcing what the Taliban have called a “general amnesty,” the group’s armed forces have also targeted former government officials and security forces. ACLED has found that about 30 percent of Taliban violence since August 15 has been against the mentioned groups. The report further mentions the detention of former security personnel, as well as the harassment of their families.

The report also cites the Taliban’s treatment of ethnic groups supporting the previous government. The Taliban have reportedly targeted ethnic groups supporting the previous government and seized their properties by force. These include the Hazaras, Uzbeks and Tajiks, who were angered by the Taliban for their involvement in the anti-Taliban coalition in the 1990s and whose lands were distributed to pro-Taliban Pashtun tribes.

Unknown gunmen

The perpetrator of much of the violence against civilians remains unknown to the ACLED. According to the report, after the fall of Afghanistan, the second cause of violence against civilians was unknown armed groups. About 39 percent of the recorded violence since August 15 has been attributed to unidentified armed groups. These violence include armed attacks, kidnappings and assassinations. According to the report, the ISKP is the third perpetrator of violence against civilians.

Political violence targeting women

ACLED says concerns about the rise of political violence against women have grown since the Taliban came to power, given their “traditional prejudice” over the rights of women and girls. The organization wrote that it recorded the most severe political violence against women from 2017 onwards until January and February 2022. The organization has attributed 75 percent of all violence against women to the Taliban. Women in Taliban-led Afghanistan are said to be facing increasing violence.

Referring to the large number of demonstrations against the Taliban by women, the organization said that this indicates an increase in political violence against women, and that the Taliban have targeted a number of them for setting out these demonstrations. ACLED has documented more than 80 women-led demonstrations since the Taliban takeover. Many women activists have been targeted for participating in the protests, the report said. The killing of a civil activist in Balkh by unknown individuals is cited as an example. Taliban raids on the homes of female protesters in Kabul and their detention and torture are among the cases cited by the rights Agency. This has led women to change their way of protesting in order to be safe from Taliban harassment. One method has been to protest indoors with unrecognizable cover. Women also protested at home, chanting slogans and posting videos of it to the media. About 20 videos were recorded by women by the end of November 2021.

Violence against civilians in the provinces

According to the ACLED, Kabul, Nangarhar and Kandahar provinces have seen the highest level of violence against civilians since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. The report indicates that by suppressing the mass media, it has become difficult to report violence against civilians in rural areas, and even the Taliban are preventing the publication of anti-government reports. However, many provinces have witnessed violence against civilians.

In northern Afghanistan, which has been a hotbed of resistance, violence against civilians has risen dramatically in Takhar and Baghlan provinces. ACLED says the escalation of violence coincides with escalating clashes between the Taliban and anti-Taliban resistance groups in the provinces. According to the organization, most of the attacks on civilians took place after the clashes, and the Taliban raided civilian homes after an armed clash and detained civilians on charges of collaborating with resistance forces. These detainees were reportedly tortured.

NRF and the emerging anti-Taliban forces

According to the ACLED, several resistance groups have emerged in Afghanistan since the Taliban came to power. The most important of these anti-Taliban groups is the National Resistance Front, which is led in the Panjshir Valley by Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud. The front has focused most of its attacks on the Taliban in Panjshir, Baghlan, Takhar, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Parwan and Kabul provinces. Clashes between the Resistance Front and the Taliban escalated in January and February 2022, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

In addition to the National Resistance Front, the organization has learned that new anti-Taliban military groups have emerged. Although little is known about the military and operational capabilities of these groups, their attacks on the Taliban have resulted in casualties. Six anti-Taliban militant groups have been registered since the report was published on March 25 this year. One of these groups is the “Freedom Tigers of Turkestan”, also known as the “Wolves of Jawzjan”. On February 7, 2022, the group carried out an attack on the Taliban in the city of Sheberghan. There is also a group called “Afghanistan’s Freedom Front” in northern Afghanistan. The front has reportedly carried out attacks against the Taliban in the north and south of the country. A movement called “Afghanistan’s Liberation Movement” led by the Pashtuns has emerged to fight the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. The emergence of this groups has been described as a major development. Because the armed resistance against the Taliban was led mainly by non-Pashtuns. A number of battlefields that have been opened against the Taliban are not yet known.

Clashes among ISKP and Taliban fighters

ACLED states that ISKP attacks in Afghanistan since the fall of Kabul have led to a series of clashes against the Taliban. The ISKP operations are mainly concentrated in Kabul, Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. The presence of the ISKP in northern and western Afghanistan has also been recorded. Violence against civilians by the ISKP has recently been reported in Farah province, it said. In the past, there has been no sign of ISKP presence in Farah. The group has also launched terrorist attacks in Kandahar and Paktia provinces, according to ACLED. The report predicts an increase in the ISKP operations in the summer, the war season in Afghanistan. Arbitrary detentions of people suspected of being members of the ISKP by the Taliban have also been cited.

Internal battles between Taliban forces

In addition to armed resistance against the Taliban, ACLED has also monitored the group’s internal conflicts. So far, 30 clashes have taken place among Taliban forces. The first internal dispute was over clashes between forces of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s first deputy prime minister, and forces loyal to Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, a senior Haqqani network official. There have been numerous reports indicating that a verbal altercation broke out between Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, the acting head of the Ministry of Refugees, at the beginning of the Taliban-led government, leading to clashes between the two sides. The Taliban denied the reports.

The majority of infighting among Taliban fighters took place in areas where the National Resistance Front is operative, the report said. The root of these internal conflicts among the Taliban has been said to be ethnic rivalries and disputes. According to the organization, although most Taliban fighters are Pashtuns, non-Pashtuns have also taken part in its ranks.