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Afghanistan has been in a state of protracted conflict for over 40 years. As at 2021, 6.5 million Afghans are displaced either internally or outside the country, predominantly in Iran and Pakistan. The Afghan economy has been largely dependent on international financial support for years. Corruption at all levels has been rife (UNHCR accessed 28/09/2021; NRC accessed 28/09/2021; Transparency International 24/11/2016). After the withdrawal of the last foreign troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban rapidly took control of all areas previously held by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GoIRA) and declared ‘the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’.

While the overall level of conflict has subsequently dropped, security for those associated with the GoIRA, the military, activists, journalists, the LGBTQ+ community, and other persons of concern is far from guaranteed, with many reprisals being reported (Amnesty International 20/09/2021). Some representatives of the previous government, including former president Ashraf Ghani, have fled the country, while most civil servants remain (Al Jazeera 08/09/2021; ABC 31/08/2021; DW 31/08/2021).

Under the new Taliban rule, many fear losing career and education opportunities primarily among the higher educated and professionals, and especially women and girls. Others fear reprisals for their ties with the previous government or the military, their profession, or their sexual orientation and gender identity. These Afghans are the most likely to attempt leaving the country in the upcoming weeks and months.

With international financial support suspended and long-standing sanctions against the Taliban affecting the whole country, Afghanistan’s economy is on the brink of collapse (Reuters 20/08/2021). The interim government’s intentions remain unclear. With minimal financial resources and an international community unsure of how to engage with the new administration, Afghans face an uncertain and potentially frightening future. Considering a range of variables that affect Afghans’ decision to move and the ability of humanitarian organisations to deliver assistance, the four scenarios presented in this report illustrate how displacement and humanitarian access within Afghanistan might evolve until March 2023, as well as the potential humanitarian consequences.