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Daily Evacuation Brief | May 10, 2022
NEW: Safeguard: A Security Brief
Given the escalation in fighting, the Afghan Digest felt it would be important to periodically share some common sense tips to help keep non-combatants safe. As we identify trends and emerging threats, we will periodically include this section in the hopes the innocent do not get caught up in the fighting. We understand that most Afghans have lived in the midst of war for the majority of their lives and may be familiar with some of the advice we are sharing. Our only intention is to hopefully save lives by passing helpful information along to those who may have less experience with conflict.
Over the next several weeks, territory and power in Northern Afghanistan will flow back and forth between the Taliban and the Resistance as they begin to learn each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The past 11 days represent the first time the Resistance and the Taliban have met in open battle since the Taliban’s takeover. The conflict will be particularly chaotic for a while as both sides navigate the steep learning curve of reversing their former roles of regime and insurgent. Making things more chaotic, both sides have recruited heavily over the past nine months and many of their new recruits have not yet experienced the battlefield. It is a particularly dangerous time for non-combatants to be caught between belligerents.
We have assembled a few historical and experience-based tips and considerations a civilian/non-combatant should take into account:
Given the Resistance’s goal of reclaiming territory, villages, towns, and cities will be where most battles are fought. While ambushes are common occurrences, they are relatively brief affairs and often don’t put non-combatants’ lives at risk to the same degree. The bigger, more dangerous fights will almost certainly take place in populated areas.
Both sides are restricted to maneuvering via roads utilizing mainly trucks. Although the Taliban do have aircraft, their capacity is limited, and they will lose many to attrition over time. Therefore, the potential for violence near roads is always going to be elevated. Attempting to utilize roads that are experiencing heavy military use is dangerous for non-combatants. Plan travel accordingly.
Isolated checkpoints or guardhouses are obvious targets to both belligerents and should be avoided if possible. If you can see that a location is vulnerable, so can the Taliban and Resistance.
Many of the Taliban who have been moved into the North are fearful of the region. Their lines of supply are now stretched, and these will suffer ambushes. If they run low on food, fuel, and medical supplies, they will take it by force from non-combatants. Hide valuable commodities from plain view and cache your supplies to avoid having them stolen. The exigencies of war could mean the Resistance forces may also try to take supplies from locals. Services can also be demanded, and skilled personnel (doctors, mechanics, gunsmiths, transporters, etc.) are occasionally kidnapped by both sides to help with the effort.
Although the focal point of the fighting is in the North, the Resistance has coordinated widely with other disaffected groups across the country and the Taliban reinforcements sent to the North will leave other areas vulnerable. Non-combatants will almost certainly begin to see attacks in other provinces throughout the country. Some will be attempts to divert the Taliban’s attention, and others will be by completely independent groups who have their own agenda but want to take advantage of the chaos.
ISIS-K will attempt to take advantage of the fighting and chaos by increasing terrorist attacks, especially against Hazaras, other ethnic minorities, Shiites, and Sufis. Militias who formed after the horrific terrorist bombings should be extra watchful.
As land and towns change hands, opportunists among the population will often try to take advantage of the situation, loyalty to the group in charge may be demanded. Opportunists may take the opportunity to settle personal grievances or spies may report back to leadership on local loyalties. The Taliban have previously utilized co-opted spies in captured areas to keep them informed of potential dissidents. Maintaining a low-profile is generally sound advice.
A good idea for a family is to build a “safe room” in their house that can be reinforced by stacking items against the walls and adding an additional layer to the roof, if possible. Try to maintain a ready supply of water and food in the room, and all family members should know it is the place they should go if a battle starts. The room should also be light-proof (using cloth to block windows, choosing a room without windows, etc.) so it can’t be identified at night easily.
Stay Safe – Stay Alive
LAST 24 HOURS:
Taliban sources state the Abshar and Dara district government buildings were retaken from NRF forces yesterday. They claim fighting continues in several neighborhoods, but the bulk of NRF forces retreated into the mountains.
Sporadic fighting has continued in Baghlan, Panjshir, and Takhar. Taliban reinforcements seem to have been effective in holding NRF and Liberation Front advances for the moment. Currently, sources believe several hundred civilians are being held hostage by the Taliban across these three districts and are being used as leverage to dissuade further Resistance forces attacks. While scattered reports of civilians being executed by the Taliban continue to stream in, we have only verified one execution report so far.
A Resistance offensive was reportedly called off in Kunduz province for unknown reasons. No further information is available.
Sources confirmed the two main resistance groups fighting in the North are the NRF and Liberation Front. Both groups share communications and operational planning and have established liaison officer cells within each other’s group.
We are confident the recent pledge made by the Taliban about arresting those who claim to have fired rockets into Tajikistan is sufficient evidence that the incident did take place. Tajikistan continues to maintain that no rockets were fired into the country. We believe this is a politically driven lie to maintain order and public confidence. Reports of drones flying along the Tajik border have continued for a third day.
Sources reported that Taliban who fled the fighting in Andarab were caught and publicly punished near Deh Salah by reinforcing units. The punishments ranged from having their beards shaved to public floggings.
NEXT 24 HOURS:
A postponed Resistance offensive is expected to resume in Kunduz. Little information is available about the planned operation, but nearly 1,000 Resistance fighters are staged near a “priority objective”.
Burials for the Taliban killed in the recent fighting are expected to take place in Kandahar and other towns. Senior Taliban officials have been asked by the families to declare the day an official day of mourning but were rebuffed by a senior aide to Supreme Leader Akhundzada who said sacrifices were expected in war. We believe the Taliban is continuing their policy of minimizing the unrest to avoid embarrassment and demoralization.
As Taliban frustration grows with the military setbacks in the North, we expect the local inhabitants will suffer from potential retribution and acts of vengeance. We have confirmed the Ministry of Defense has issued verbal orders to respect the rights of non-combatants, but sources close to Taliban commanders say they are exasperated by the policy and have claimed “All these people are combatants”, “They hate us”, etc. We suggest all non-combatants in the contested regions to stay indoors and avoid contact with combatants from both sides. For those who know of an imminent clash, we urge them to evacuate and shelter in the countryside. Few of the clashes have been protracted, and most of the battles we have information on seem to last for only a day or two. It appears to be safer to leave a potential battleground for a few days if possible rather than sheltering in place.
By Jonathan Schroden – Lawfare
In October 2021, nearly two months after the Taliban’s conquest of Afghanistan, Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the Islamic State’s branch in Afghanistan (Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K) could generate the capability to strike outside of the country within “six to twelve” months. He assessed that al-Qaeda’s branch in Afghanistan would take longer, perhaps “a year or two.” To mitigate that possibility, the United States established an “over-the-horizon” counterterrorism capability for Afghanistan, which President Joe Biden described as the ability to “strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground.”
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