Between 2011 and 2015 the country suffered 11,838 deaths and injuries from 1,157 IED incidents. Of these casualties, 73% (8,608) were civilians. However, there has been a significant decrease in IED incidents in this period and over the last five years, and Afghanistan has seen the deaths and injuries from IEDs per year drop by 41%. Though, similarly to Iraq, Afghanistan has also witnessed the lethality per IED incident increase rise by 175% from 8 per incident in 2011, to 22 in 2015.
Afghanistan has taken important steps to combat the use of IEDs within policy and diplomacy, such as Presidential Decree no. 28, which was issued in 2010. The decree bans the import, use, storage and trade of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, what had been a key in IEDs used in the country, in Afghanistan. Afghanistan has also engaged in efforts to improve border security, awareness raising and information sharing. Other border security efforts in Afghanistan have been tackled by the World Customs Organisation’s Programme Global Shield (PGS), which will be looked at in more detail later.
The Afghan National Police have developed explosive hazard reduction teams. The police within this field receive training to be used in the fight against the IED problem in Afghanistan. The first of these teams was introduced into Helmand province where they put their C-IED skills to use in the protection of Afghan civilians.
C-IED assistance to Afghanistan has come from diverse sources and in a variety of forms. Not only have armed forces and law enforcement received training from countries such as the UK and US, but from NATO as well. NATO has also provided monetary assistance to Afghanistan through the ANA Trust Fund. This assistance has greatly improved Afghanistan’s C-IED capabilities and appears to have informed the state on what C-IED progress must look like, not just nationally but globally.
The Afghani National Police use the Central Training Center in Kabul to learn and train in C-IED. Many of the trainers are experts from abroad. For example, the C-IED Chief Advisor at the Central Training Center is an EOD Technician from the Royal Australian Navy. Some of the Afghan police have received training from foreign bomb disposal operators such as those from the UK and the US, who have contributed experienced force members to aid in C-IED training efforts. They have been given training particularly in destroying roadside bombs, and have also received training in robot maintenance and repair.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) are the national armed forces of Afghanistan. The NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) is responsible for the ANDSF’s institutional training, education and professional development activities, as set out by the Afghan Ministries of Defence and Interior.
The Resolute Support, which will be detailed momentarily, mission engages in C-IED training and activity through the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan Counter-IED Directorate (CSTC-A C-IED Directorate). The C-IED Directorate trains, advises and assists the ANDSF on how to identify and disarm IEDs and UXOs and collect evidence following detonation.
In April 2014, the C-IED Directorate launched the Improvised Explosive Device Analysis Course. This course trains ANA Soldiers on how to collect and analyse information from IEDs. The course lasts ten days, and aims to see the trainees return to their home forces and in turn train them. The instructors use practical exercises throughout the course to increase the retention of lessons by the students. After graduating, the students should be able to:
- Identify the characteristics of an IED
- Know the local tactics for employing, transporting, storing, and making IEDs
- Understand the reporting process
- Understand how the intelligence cycle supports analysis of IED threat data
- Be able to produce an IED threat product briefing slide
The CSTC-A also provide awareness raising in coordination with the Afghan Ministry of Education teachers. This sees training given, alongside the use of adverts on billboards and entertainment to reach provide such awareness on IEDs.[i]
Both the police and army have received equipment such as metal detectors, suits and robots. Now the amount of bomb disposal specialists is in the hundreds but they hope to train more given the scale of the threat in Afghanistan.
Through the ANA trust fund the ANA has received equipment, such as 450 personnel devices from Afghanistan in January 2015.
Equipment received through the C-IED Directorate efforts from international forces has seen the ANDSF accumulate more than 455 mine rollers in support of route clearance operations since 2011, along with 90,000 mounted and dismounted C-IED radio controlled electronic warfare devices. He said there were 64 EOD items delivered to the ANDSF, including critical equipment such as medium tactical vehicles, IED jammers, bomb suits, hand-held detectors and robots.
The development of the Afghan National Army (ANA) is supported by the ANA Trust Fund, which is a NATO project. The ANA Trust Fund was created in 2007 to provide a mechanism for International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to support the transportation and installation of equipment donated by ISAF nations, and to purchase equipment and services for ANA engineering projects, and to support in- and out-of-country training. It also supports the long-term sustaining of the ANA and literacy and professional military education which includes C-IED efforts. Through this programme the ANA has received contributions from the international community in excess of $1 billion.
The US has assisted in training efforts as well as in airstrikes. Both NATO Resolute Support, and the US, have targeted armed groups such as the Taliban, al-Qaeda and IS affiliates across Afghanistan and have been responsible for the death and injury of hundreds of militants, as well as the destruction of their assets, such as vehicles, hideouts, and buildings.
State assistance has also seen the US engage with both Afghanistan and Pakistan within what is known as the Tripartite Counter-IED Working Group. The group is composed of senior military and diplomatic representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Coalition Forces in Afghanistan, and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The Tripartite C-IED Working Group is one arm of the Tripartite Commission.
The group engages frequently in C-IED information exchange between US, Afghan and Pakistani military representatives. The information exchange has already resulted in substantial improvements in cooperation and has seen greater operational successes and the saving of numerous Afghan civilian lives. Recently, the working group also proposed that a common database be developed to aid in the fight against IEDs.
The group has also begun efforts in civilian awareness raising, as well as attempting to improve border security between Afghanistan and Pakistan to target terrorists and IED materials moving between the two countries. Afghanistan has increasingly sought to improve border security to assist enforcement, as they believe 80% of the IEDs in Afghanistan are made with commercial explosives that come from companies in Pakistan.[ii]
Afghanistan has been a member of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG) since 2006. It received a warning from the FATF to comply with its commitments to implement its action plan to address deficiencies by October 2014 or it risked being placed on the FATF’s list of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions. In March 2015, Afghanistan amended its anti-money laundering and counterterrorism financing laws to increase the countries compliance with FATF standards. However, significant deficiencies remain in Afghanistan’s compliance and ability to combat terrorism financing.
Between August and September 2015, Afghanistan Border Police also participated in a regional workshop in Tajikistan on “Border Security and Management for Countering Terrorism”. Similar courses have been provided in Tajikistan by the OSCE Border Management College, such as the Train the Trainers Course for the Afghan Border Police in April 2016.
Afghanistan’s involvement in PGS has seen customs officers participate in PGS training where they learn how to identify IEDs, detonators and dual-use precursor chemicals used in manufacturing IEDs. Additionally, training has provided Afghanistan Customs the knowledge necessary to carry out risk assessments, and knowledge of international and national measures to reduce risks associated with such chemicals. At training they also have gained experience using presumptive chemical test kits and devices.
The main NATO effort in Afghanistan is the NATO Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan. Resolute Support is an international task force whose mission is to provide further training, advice and assistance for Afghan institutions and security forces. It is intended to promote the ‘Afghanisation’ of military and security work in the country, replacing NATO’s direct military role. As of June 2015 it consisted of 41 nations that are participating in the RS mission, including 26 NATO allies and 15 other partner countries, for a complement of 13,223 military personnel, including 6,834 U.S. forces.
Resolute Support was launched in early January 2015 after the completion of the mission of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Much of the ISAF infrastructure was folded into Resolute Support, including the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A) and the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A), now re-designated CJ7. Resolute Support is based in Kabul and Bagram Airfield, with four local ‘spokes’: Mazar-e Sharif, Herat, Kandahar and Laghman.
Resolute Support’s key functions include:
- Supporting planning, programming and budgeting
- Assuring transparency, accountability and oversight
- Supporting the adherence to the principles of rule of law and good governance
- Supporting the establishment and sustainment of such processes as force generation, recruiting, training, managing and development of personnel
They have also reportedly established two state of the art Ministry of the Interior exploitation labs in both Kabul and Herat. These are designed to provide extra intelligence about the devices that are being used and allow post-blast investigations to be carried out. This can considerably aid in the defeat the network aspect of C-IED. They can establish the explosives used and potentially where they have come from, as well as the mechanisms used.
Mining agencies have also played a notable role in C-IED, as their efforts have gradually expanded to see them clear IEDs alongside mines and other ERW. These organisations include MACCA and the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA). It is hoped that their role in C-IED will continue to grow, given their experience with explosives and clearance tactics. UNMAS’s role in Afghanistan has also included IED clearance, though this is not part of their mandate. In 2012 UNMAS partners cleared most parts of Nawzad district of Helmand province and, in doing so, destroyed 579 PPIED and 2300 different types of ERW.[iii]
UNMAS in Afghanistan have also provided victim assistance – an aspect of C-IED that is all too often overlooked. They provide this through their ACAPIII project, which includes the provision of immediate assistance packages, physical rehabilitation referrals, psycho social referrals and economic reintegration referrals to war affected civilians based on certain eligibility criteria, where IED attacks civilian victims fall in.[iv]
The largest United Nations agency role in Afghanistan has been played by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). Though UNAMA was established in 2002, it has been essential within Afghanistan over the last few years. As of August 2014, it consisted of 1559 civilian staff (predominantly Afghan citizens), 14 military advisors and two police advisors, and has a permanent field presence in 13 Afghan provinces as well as liaison offices in Pakistan and Iran. Its mandate was renewed in 2015 by the Security Council’s unanimous adoption of Resolution 2210, which made explicit the need for UNAMA to support the Afghan government’s ban on ammonium nitrate fertiliser and to help regulate explosive materials and precursor chemicals.
UNAMA produces regular reports. The 2015 mid-year report recorded a drop in the number of IED casualties, but a 78% increase in civilian casualties of suicide attacks from the same period in 2014.
UNAMA undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimising the impact of the armed conflict on civilians including:
- Independent and impartial monitoring of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians
- Advocacy to strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict
- Initiatives to promote compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan among all parties to the conflict
UNAMA’s engagement in Afghanistan through its data collection has also provided information to other actors involved with Afghanistan and is a data model upon which similar IED monitoring elsewhere can be built.
Other efforts in Afghanistan have focused on some of the root-causes of IED use. The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme (APRP) was proposed in 2010 and since December 2015 worked with the aim of reinvigorating the Afghan-led peace and reintegration efforts. They hoped to help provide political solutions to conflict, as well as promoting dialogue and measures to reintegrate armed opposition groups back into society – targeting one of the root causes of IED use.
The United Nations Development Programme provided advice to the APRP leadership “on peace building, reconciliation and reintegration, and assist the Joint Secretariat in the areas of policy, planning, capacity development, implementation, monitoring and evaluation as well as management of the Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund”. They managed to engage with many members of militant groups. These efforts have also increased public awareness.
The achievements of the programme included the reintegration of 10,404 former combatants after renouncing violence. Of these, 10,286 received financial assistance to reintegrate into their communities. Further, 146 small grant projects have been implemented (consisting mostly of small community infrastructure projects) to help reintegration as well as benefit local people. Vocational training was also provided, such as farming and road maintenance, which gave employment as well as local economic growth.
Afghanistan influence on C-IED at the UN
Afghanistan led the way in the international arena, proposing a resolution to the United Nations General Assembly titled “Countering the threat posed by improvised explosive devices”, a resolution that will be explained in more detail further on. It is important to note however, that the resolution was based on Afghanistan’s call for international engagement in C-IED that goes beyond states and seeks to involve civil society and businesses too.[v]
The CSTC-A C-IED Directorate is a Kabul-based team of coalition service members, Department of Defense civilians and contractors at Resolute Support Headquarters. The C-IED Directorate trains, advises and assists the ANDSF and also brings awareness directly to civilians. The CSTC-A C-IED Directorate has teamed up with the UN Mine Action Coordination Center of Afghanistan (MACCA), Afghan Security Institutions’ C-IED officers and the Ministry of Education to spread IED awareness techniques to as many Afghan children as possible. The C-IED Directorate also produces hand-outs, radio and television PSAs and billboards in Dari, Pashto and English to reach civilians and educate them on IED awareness.
Over the summer of 2015, 123 child protection officers and teachers from all 34 provinces converged in Kabul for a four-day seminar. They learned about the newest IED technology, what to look for and how to use the 119 Emergency Services Call Center for reporting. Each graduate received hand-outs, posters and discs that will help them train 5,074 teachers throughout Afghanistan, who will in turn teach their students IED and UXO safety.
NGO, civil society and private company support
Ulema Council of Afghanistan
As it is vital acknowledge what led to individuals perpetrating explosive violence, Afghanistan has also engaged religious authorities in their C-IED work. In this regard the Ulema Council of Afghanistan can have a major influence and Afghanistan have tried to utilise this. The Ulema Council is made up of religious leaders. Their C-IED influence has seen them encourage peace and denounced IED attacks. They have often used their position to call out the use of terrorism and explain that these attacks are against the teachings of Islam.
Over recent years the Ulema Council has condemned many IED attacks across Afghanistan, especially those that target civilians.[vi] They have also urged citizens to rally behind the Afghan National Security Forces. It should be remembered though, that other Ulema councils, such as in Pakistan have been supportive of some IED attacks by terrorist groups. Many countries have asked the Ulema Council and other religious leaders within their respective borders to denounce IED attacks, principally suicide attacks, as they understand the influence the clerics have within Islam.
Since 2004, Dynasafe has worked on many projects for a diverse selection of clients from international construction and security companies to NGOs. Projects completed include a large and complex mine clearance operation in Herat Province, the provision of MDDs to a company operating in Kandahar and a variety of demining and UXO clearance operations on infrastructure and humanitarian projects.
Dynasafe has also been awarded a major contract to provide Explosive and Narcotics Detection Dog Teams, as part of the general security package across all Afghan airports. It currently provides in total 9 canine teams in support of security contracts in Afghanistan. Its main office is located in Kabul.
Handicap International has managed the only rehabilitation centre in Kandahar since 1996. The centre is increasingly seeing new patients. In 2015 they saw over 7,000 new patients. Approximately 20% of new patients have a lower limb amputated due to harm from landmines, IEDs or other explosives.
The centre has 33 beds and treats people from across Afghanistan and even Pakistan. They provide physical therapy and group sessions to help victims adjust to their disability.
The DDG have been operating in Afghanistan since 1999. DDG has delivered a full package of mine action services, including non-technical and technical survey, mine and ERW risk education, mine clearance, BAC, and EOD.
They have provided MRE programs in the most affected areas, such as, Kunduz, Herat, Kandahar, and Kabul. These are particularly focused along axes of displacement and returnee areas.
This has also been the case with the EOD and area clearance DDG have carried out too. This work has often been conducted in cooperation with other agencies within the country, such as MACCA, whom the DDG have been working with since 2014.
To see the areas of the published report, see here. To see a list of all the C-IED actors examined as part of the project, please go here. To read the full report, ‘Addressing the threat posed by IEDs: National, Regional and Global Initiatives’, see here. To see those engaged in the Middle East, the Sahel, North Africa or other highly impacted countries please see here, here, here, and here respectively. This research was made possible by funding from the NATO Counter Improvised Explosive Devices Centre of Excellence (C-IED COE) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
[i] According to the CSTC-A C-IED questionnaire response.
[ii] Afghanistan ambassador to the United Nations, interview transcript
[iii] C-IED questionnaire by UNMAS Afghanistan.
[iv] C-IED questionnaire by UNMAS Afghanistan.
[v] Afghanistan ambassador to the United Nations, interview transcript
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