Revised Classification of the Armed Conflicts in Afghanistan following US Withdrawal and Taliban’s Overall Control of the Country

Our Rule of Law in Armed Conflict (RULAC) online portal has been monitoring and classifying situations of armed violence that are taking place in Afghanistan, using the definition of armed conflict under international humanitarian law (IHL).

Until recently, we classified the following three non-international armed conflicts (NIACs) in the country:

  • A NIAC between the former governments of Afghanistan led by Ashraf Ghani – supported by US troops – and the Taliban – an organized armed group at the time.
  • A NIAC between the former government of Afghanistan and the Khorasan province branch of the Islamic State group (IS-KP)
  • A NIAC between the Taliban – an organized armed group at the time – and the IS-KP.

Following the withdrawal of US troops and the fact that the Taliban gained effective control over most of the country, including Kabul, we revised this classification.

Who is the Afghan Government? : The IHL Perspective

On 7 September 2021, the Taliban announced the formation of an interim government led by Mohammad Hasan Akhund.

‘Under IHL, the majoritarian view posits that the government needs to exercise effective control in order to represent the state, a position confirmed by the International Committee of the Red Cross in its Commentary to the Geneva Conventions. As such, the recognition of the Afghan government by other states and questions regarding its legitimacy are not relevant for IHL purposes, as this body of law adopts a pragmatic approach and focuses on the actual situation on the ground’ explains Dr Chiara Redaelli, Research Fellow at the Geneva Academy.

‘In light of the information at our disposal, and based on IHL – which is the body of law we refer to on RULAC – we concluded that the Taliban are now the effective government. Indeed, they are exercising effective control over the overwhelming majority of the country and seem to exercise functions usually assigned to a government. The fact that there are still contested areas does not prevent to conclude that the Taliban’s control is sufficient’ she adds.

Implications for the Classification and Open Questions

As such, and given that the Taliban became the effective government of Afghanistan, the following armed conflicts are taking place in the country according to our RULAC online portal:

‘One of the main questions we had to address was whether the previous NIAC between the Taliban armed group and the former Afghan government continues as a NIAC between the National Resistance Front (loyal to the former government) and the Taliban (representing now Afghanistan), or whether this NIAC is now over’ explains Dr Redaelli.

‘This question is open to debate and IHL does not provide clear answers. Our views are that the fighting (if any) between the National Resistance Front and the Taliban government should be considered as a continuation of the previous NIAC. This being said, the question whether the National Resistance Front is sufficiently organized remains open and we do not have enough information to make this assessment. It seems therefore premature to declassify the situation of violence and we therefore concluded that, for the time being, the Taliban government is engaging in a NIAC against the National Resistance Front’ she adds.

MORE ON THIS THEMATIC AREA

A Private Afghan Security Company technical armed with a DShK heavy machine gun sits along the side of a road. U.S.Forces stopped this security company's convoy due to reports from locals claiming that the security company had been shooting sporadic gunfi News

The Involvement of Mercenaries and Private Military Security Companies in Armed Conflicts: What does IHL Say?

9 November 2021

Several armed conflicts classified in our RULAC online portal see the participation of mercenaries or private military security companies alongside states’ armed forces. Dr Chiara Redaelli, in charge of RULAC and an expert in IHL, answers our questions regarding what IHL says about this phenomenon.

Read more

Stephen Hare with his teammates with Moneyneath Men and Rattanak Borin from the Royal University of Law and Economics, Pnomh Penh. News

LLM Student Stephen Hare Wins Best Speaker Award at the 36th Jean-Pictet Competition

21 December 2021

Stephen Hare won the Gilbert-Apollis Prize at the 36th Edition of the Jean-Pictet Competition that took place in early December in Albania.

Read more

Logo of the Atlas Network Event

Women's Perspectives on a Career in International Law

7 February 2022, 12:30-14:00

In this online event co-organized with the ATLAS Network, prominent women in international law will share their experience and advice through an interactive discussion.

Read more

Côte d'Ivoire,  Abidjan, military instruction center in Akandjé. An ICRC dissemination session on international humanitarian law for the 1st bataillon of commando paratroopers. Short Course

The Implementation of International Humanitarian Law

8 February - 11 March 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, will cover the ‘nuts and bolts’ of implementation, including national legislation, dissemination and training, and discuss the mechanisms such as the International Fact-Finding Commission, as set out in the treaties.

Read more

Syria,  Aleppo, great Umayyad mosque. Destructions. Short Course

The Interplay between International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights

11 February - 4 March 2022

This short course, which can be followed in Geneva or online, focuses on the specific issues that arise in times of armed conflict regarding the respect, protection and fulfilment of human rights. It addresses key issues like the applicability of human rights in times of armed conflict; the possibilities of restricting human rights under systems of limitations and derogations; and the extraterritorial application of human rights law.

Read more

A session of the UN Human Rights Committtee at Palais Wilson Project

Implementing International Humanitarian Law Through Human Rights Mechanisms

Started in April 2019

Resulting from traditional legal research and informal interviews with experts, the project aims at examining how – if at all possible – IHL could be more systematically, appropriately and correctly dealt with by the human rights mechanisms emanating from the Charter of the United Nations, as well from universal and regional treaties.

Read more

Surveillance Camera Project

COUNTER-TERROR PROJECT: A LEGAL EMPIRICAL APPROACH

Started in June 2019

The ‘Counter-Terror Pro LegEm’ project combines legal analysis with social science research to (1) examine the effectiveness of counterterrorism measures and their effects on human rights and (2) analyse the structure of terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda or the Islamic State and see whether they qualify as ‘organized armed groups’ for the purpose of international humanitarian law.

Read more

Cover of the publication Publication

The UN Security Council and Common Article 1: Understanding the Role of Peacekeeping Operations in Ensuring Respect for IHL

published on October 2021

Émilie Max

Read more