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70 SAFET Y IN AFGHANISTAN •• The Authorities

A list of good news sources can be found on p19 . A shortwave radio

is also recommended, and some stations such as the BBC World Service broadcast on FM in Kabul (see p84 ). Most NGO and IO workers will receive daily security updates from

their organisations’ security advisors or from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO). To further enhance this it behoves you to establish a network of local security information wherever you are planning to work or travel, whether that be local staff or international colleagues.

briefing in Kabul held by ANSO (; briefing at Maple Leaf Inn;

h3pm Thu). The UN Mine Action Centre for Afghanistan (UNMACA; x070 450027;

Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul) provides land mine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) safety briefings when requested to NGOs and contractors, where they also provide participants with extremely useful handouts.

Security briefings

Currently there are no organisations offering regular security briefings to independent travellers. For registered NGOs, there is a weekly security


ANP – Afghan National Police

ANA – Afghan National Army

NDS – National Direc- torate of Security (the Afghan spies)


The Afghan National Security Forces are developing slowly, with the assistance of the international community. The Afghan National Police (ANP) are the most visible force; you will see them at check points, bor- der crossings and airports. Corruption is a major issue within the ANP, with many supplementing their meagre income of less than US$50 per month with criminal activities. Internationals have been targeted for baksheesh (bribes) after dark at check posts in the provincial centres; however, they back down with a threat of a call to the Police HQ or an Embassy. Little should be expected in terms of assistance from the ANP. Their capability to investigate or prosecute crimes is extremely limited, and they are preoccupied with fighting the insurgency. Those working or travelling within Afghanistan may have an en-

counter with the Afghan National Army (ANA), often seen with the ISAF forces, being mentored by them. As with the ANP, corruption and involvement in the drugs trade is an issue. It must also be noted that both criminals and insurgents have been known to steal and wear ANA and ANP uniforms to conduct their operations; therefore, it is unwise to automatically assume that everyone in uniform is a legitimate member of the security forces.

In the past ISAF has supported both Afghan and international ci- vilians with in extremis and medical support, including vehicle ac- cidents and protection during riots. As an independent traveller you are unlikely to be able to contact them for assistance. Should they be mobilised they would not ignore a request for assistance but their own operational commitments and political caveats may preclude them from intervening.


Communications underpin personal security management. As a mini- mum, anyone planning on working or travelling in Afghanistan should purchase a SIM card from a local provider or if possible set their interna- tional SIM to roam. This is a necessity not a luxury. Although the Afghan networks can be unreliable, with frequent call drop outs or inability to get a line out, they are the primary source of communication and as good as it gets. Coverage is improving continually with most provincial centres and main routes having access. It should also be noted that following a

SAFET Y IN AFGHANISTAN •• Types of Risk 71

significant security incident such as a bombing, the network is swamped with people trying to locate others. To make the best use of your communications ensure you develop a

‘check in’ schedule with your colleagues or fellow travellers. Also ensure you have the relevant emergency numbers for the areas you will be travel- ling in programmed into your phone.


The types of risk in Afghanistan are complex and overlap heavily. Many security incidents are also ‘dressed up’ to make them look like insurgent acts; however, many are perpetrated by criminals, warlords or narcolords to avoid the attention of the international military forces.


Despite the attempts of the government and international forces to break the back of the insurgency, some analysts conclude that capability and sophistication of the insurgents is at its highest point since 2001. The in- surgency is by no means homogenous, with two main groups: indigenous Afghan insurgent traditionalist groups including the Taliban and Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin (HIG); and global fundamentalist, Al Qaeda–inspired terrorist organisations with their roots outside Afghanistan. Their objec- tives are more or less aligned: to overthrow the elected government and return Afghanistan to an Islamic Emirate according to strict Sharia law, without foreign influence. There are clear links between them and the criminal and narco elements, as a means of supporting themselves and their operations. The insurgency is extremely active in the Pashtun Belt; however, at times this spills over into Kabul. IEDs, BBIEDs, VBIEDs, rocketing, as- sassination, ambushes and propaganda are some of the tactics they are employing in their jihad – with a great deal of knowledge-sharing going on between groups in Iraq and Afghanistan. The challenge that is faced by both the government and the international community is that without reconstruction it is almost impossible to bring about enduring security and vice versa – currently both are eluding them. Although independent travellers and NGO workers have been targeted

by these groups on an extremely limited scale, it is clear that their pri- mary target for the time being remains the Afghan Government, ISAF and Coalition forces. Some NGOs believe that there has been a blurring of lines between their humanitarian activities and the operations of the ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). They feel that with the invasion of the ‘humanitarian space’ by gunned-up army types building schools and digging wells their vulnerability has increased through the perception of NGOs in turn being involved with the military.

Mines and UXOs

With its war-torn past Afghanistan remains one of the countries in the world most highly contaminated with land mines; 32 of the 34 Afghan provinces are affected by mines. They are not the only explosive remnant of war that account for, on average, three Afghans a day being killed or injured: UXOs include any munition that has been fired or dropped and has failed to detonate, from a hand grenade to a missile. UXOs can be found anywhere from rooftops to backyards or the desert and are equally as lethal as land mines.

The economic and social cost of the mine and UXO problem in Afghanistan is massive. Large tracts of farming and grazing land are

Many NGOs will also operate a VHF and HF radio network; make sure you get training on how to use it. They also may operate Thuraya or Iridium satellite phones.


IED – Improvised Explosive Device

BBIED – Body Borne IED (suicide vest)

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