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Afghanistan – Not Business as Usual

By: Joe Gleason, AHT


As most will know from media reports, there has been an upsurge of violence in Afghanistan in recent weeks. Driven in part by the upcoming elections planned for September 28, as well as the collapse of the US-Taliban peace talks. Attacks have included both Afghan government and civilian targets, as well as those associated with internationals, including NGOs, a commercial residential compound and security force checkpoints. While Afghanistan is challenging on a good day, the current environment requires additional attention – even for organizations with long-time experience in the country.

Most organizations operating in the country have developed tailored plans, procedures and resources to enable activities in Afghanistan’s already complex risk environment. However, during sustained periods of increased violence, it’s important to review and re-assess both organizational exposures, as well as the appropriateness of risk management measures. Measures being used currently by organizations and worth considering include:

  • Limiting travel to and within the country until after the election period and a reassessment of the situation − Some organizations have ceased travel to Afghanistan through the elections and the immediate aftermath.
  • Re-assessing physical security at offices and residential facilities to ensure they have best practice measures in place, including “airlocks” to screen/contain entry points, safe rooms, CCTV monitoring and getting professional guidance to assess measures − Best practices evolve, so it’s important to review and update practices.
  • Carefully evaluating activities and limiting them to mission essential operations − Of course, what is defined as “mission essential” varies depending on the organization.
  • Planning and conducting ground transportation with professional security advice and guidance − Movement is where organizations are most vulnerable to being in the “wrong place at the wrong time”, so it’s important to limit movement wherever possible and use appropriate measures when movement is necessary. Many organizations use armored vehicles, especially for international personnel.
  • Reviewing and refreshing emergency/contingency plans and resources − Be prepared and train staff to shelter for extended periods and have a reinforced safe room in place. Even medical emergencies unrelated to violence may be more complicated to manage when movement is restricted by the general security environment, so plan accordingly.

More than ever, it’s essential that organizations consult with professional security resources that have Afghanistan experience – either internal and/or external – in reviewing, re-assessing and updating security management systems. The current situation, along with the measures and resources needed to operate effectively, requires deliberate review and shouldn’t be chocked up to “business as usual” in Afghanistan.

The situation in Afghanistan is unlikely to improve significantly in the foreseeable future. Adapting measures to manage risk, while maintaining some level of operations, is always a challenge in the country and even more so during period of increased tension. Adapting and adjusting are essential parts of being able to operate in a complex risk environment, like Afghanistan.