Read caption Khyr-ul-nisa, 55, was displaced from her village in Almar district after fierce fighting broke out in early January. Photo: Enayatullah Azad/NRC

Thousands flee clashes between Taliban and Islamic State in Eastern Afghanistan

Published 27. Nov 2017
“Armed clashes between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the Islamic State of Khorasan over the past month have boiled over into brutal change of territorial control, from which thousands of Afghan families are desperately fleeing for their lives,” said Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Head of Programme in Afghanistan, Will Carter.

The southern districts of Nangarhar Province have been a bloody battleground between groups affiliated with the Islamic State of Khorasan, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (also known as ‘the Taliban’), Afghan National Defence and Security Forces, and the international military.  The Islamic State Khorasan appeared to have been contained earlier this year, but became militarily resurgent over the past four weeks, and also closed educational facilities. 

Ghareeb Gul, a civilian from Wazir Tangi area told NRC emergency response staff in Khogyani District, Nangarhar Province: “they have captured many villages around the Tangi area, and tortured people for helping the Taliban.  No one was helping the Taliban. Now the Islamic State have full control of the Wazir Tangi area.” 

Amir Jan, a civilian said that “the Taliban used to control our area, but the Islamic State suddenly attacked them three days agoWe were all afraid that they would kill us, so we left everything.  We came to Chamtala area, where we don’t have anything – nowhere to sleep and no food.” 

Thousands of families are crammed into tiny rooms, and hundreds do not have a roof over their heads as a harsh winter looms.  The majority do not have more than a week’s worth of food. Many families painfully left behind loved ones to the mercy of the Islamic State, so as to guard livestock that they need to survive until they can move to safety. 

NRC rapidly provided emergency relief to over eight thousand displaced and vulnerable women, girls, boys and men in the affected districts in the past couple of weeks, and we are now assessing the needs of yet another wave as violence further flares,” said Carter.  The distress and desperation of Afghans fleeing from these areas highlights the cruelty of what they have suffered and witnessed.” 

"If there is enough money to bomb the country, there should be enough to help people fleeing the Islamic State. The international community cannot simply look the other way whilst the country slides backwards into merciless armed conflict," Carter said.  

  • The security situation continues to deteriorate in Afghanistan. US authorities report that at least 30% of the country is not under the control of the formal government, and over 600 000 Afghans were newly displaced (internally) due to conflict over 2016; the humanitarian community had initially projected and planned for just 250,000 IDPs at the beginning of the yearThis year, over 360 000 people have fled their homes due to the conflict – over 1,000 people every day. People fled from 31 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, or 136 out of its 399 districts. 

  • Nangarhar Province is one of the main destinations of registered Afghan refugees who have reportedly felt forced to return from Pakistan in greater numbers since 2016.  Hostilities have not ceased in Nangarhar, however. The US military used the ‘Mother Of All Bombs’ against Islamic State targets in southern Nangarhar in April 2017, purportedly killing 90 people. 

  • In total, over 2016, NRC directly assisted 300 000 displaced people through its wider programme in Afghanistan, which includes legal assistance, shelter, and education in emergencies. NRC maintains 12 field offices across Afghanistan, including in Nangarhar. From the Nangarhar office, NRC directly implements humanitarian shelter, legal protection, Education in Emergency, Camp Management, and WASH programming, as well as maintaining an emergency response capacity. In Nangarhar, NRC also operates eight community outreach centres, including in Khogyani District. 

  • NRC is a leading partner of the Emergency Response Mechanism (ERM) in Afghanistan, a partnership of seven international, humanitarian NGOs, that provide rapid, emergency assistance primarily to women, boys, girls, and men displaced by conflict or affected by natural disaster. NRC is grateful to the European Commission’s humanitarian financing of the ERM, which accounts for the majority of frontline response to conflict displacement in Afghanistan.  NRC has rapidly responded to over 100k people who have fled their homes in Afghanistan through ERM over 2017 alone. 

Further information on internal, conflict-induced displacement in Afghanistan:  

For further information on NRC Afghanistan:  

If you would like interviews or more information, please contact:   

  • NRC Head of Programme (Afghanistan), William Carter: Cell: +93 795 271 621 

  • NRC Head of Media and Communication (Head Office), Tuva Raanes Bogsnes: Cell: +47 93 231 883