EARTHQUAKE HITS SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN. HIGH RISK OF HIGH NUMBER OF DEAD AND WOUNDED AND HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IF ACTION IS NOT TAKEN IN THE SHORT TERM
Alberto Suárez Sutil, Giorgio Tiberio, Lucy Game,CENTCOM Team; Alyssa Schmidt, Emergency Management, Health, and Hazards (EMH2) Team
Hannah Norton, Justin Maurina, Manja Vitasovic, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief of Staff
June 22-23, 2022
Paktika Province, Afghanistan
The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) is issuing a FLASH ALERT for southeastern Afghanistan following the earthquake that caused landslides and damaged hundreds of homes. The 6.1 magnitude earthquake occurred on Wednesday at 0130 local time in Paktika province, southeast of Kabul. There are currently 1,000 deaths and 1,600 injured. The number of dead and injured will very likely increase as rescue and relief efforts continue, particularly from the removal of rubble and deaths of injured if not treated adequately. The earthquake hit the remote and rural province of Paktika. The remoteness of the affected area, very likely with poor communication infrastructure, will almost certainly restrict aid from effectively reaching survivors. Delayed aid to survivors will very likely increase the death toll as those in need of urgent medical treatment will very likely not be treated timely. Increased number of dead and wounded will almost certainly challenge the distribution and management of relief efforts and the disposal of the dead. Inadequate management and planning of aid distribution and disposal of the dead will very likely worsen the humanitarian crisis that is almost certain to result from the earthquake.
CTG is on HIGH alert for the unfolding humanitarian crisis in eastern Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban government of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan ALMOST CERTAINLY lacks capacity to provide food, medicine, and shelter to survivors. The UN, Red Crescent, and NGOs like Doctors Without Borders will VERY LIKELY need to coordinate relief efforts with Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. A likely lack of adequate medical facilities for survivors treatment, poor communication infrastructures, and ongoing famine will very likely challenge the UN, the Afghan Taliban, and the NGOs efforts to timely deliver aid to southeastern Pakistan.
On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, a 6.1 magnitude earthquake struck Afghanistan killing 1,500 people and injuring 1,000 others. The earthquake’s 30 mile (48 kilometer) epicenter was situated southwest of the Afghan province of Khost, and was 6 miles (9 kilometers) deep. Casualties will almost certainly increase in upcoming weeks as reconstruction and relief efforts start. Afghanistan’s Paktika and Nangarhar provinces, which border Pakistan, have also been affected. The number of provinces affected and their mountainous geography will almost certainly complicate the arrival and distribution of relief efforts, very likely worsening the humanitarian crisis resulting from this earthquake. Afghanistan has experienced major earthquakes in the past, with similar magnitude earthquakes occurring in 1998, 2002, and 2015 in north and northeast Afghanistan with death tolls ranging from 200 in 2015 to 4,500 in 1998. Earthquakes’ regularity in Afghanistan very likely indicates that a similar natural disaster is likely to take place in the short to mid-term, with the Afghan Taliban almost certain to be unprepared to face it.
Inadequately staffed and equipped hospitals and clinics will very likely result in insufficient medical treatment to the wounded, almost certainly increasing the mortality rate. The supply chain will almost certainly be affected, likely exacerbating the ongoing famine in Afghanistan, and likely causing refugee flows to Pakistan. Distribution channels of food and emergency aid will likely need to be secured in affected areas. Depletion of resources will likely occur following this event, likely causing long-term problems with access to medical treatment. Doctors, nurses, and temporary but well-equipped medical facilities from the UN and NGOs will very likely be necessary to cope with the number of injured individuals as the Afghan Taliban government will very likely be unprepared for the influx of patients.
Poor communication infrastructures will very likely delay emergency responses. Rockslides caused by the earthquake will likely compromise traffic security due to the mountainous terrain around the epicenter, likely obstructing local roads. Damaged infrastructure will likely hinder emergency supply routes near impacted areas. As a result, response teams will very likely reach the affected areas by helicopter, likely reducing the number of people that can be transported to hospitals compared to road transportation. The lack of trained helicopter mechanics and spare helicopter parts will almost certainly stop emergency teams from reaching affected areas. This will very likely increase casualties as those in need of medical treatment will likely not reach hospitals capable of treatment in Kabul and neighboring cities like Ghazni and Jalalabad in time. Communication disruptions will likely occur until reparations take place, almost certainly impacting emergency response and reports from the public to the Taliban-controlled government and emergency personnel. Afghanistan’s ongoing economic crisis will very likely worsen if aid is not provided quickly, as the damages caused by the earthquake will almost certainly decrease economic production in the Paktika and Khost provinces.
The humanitarian response will almost certainly include the Red Cross, Red Crescent, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO). International aid workers are likely high-value targets for militant groups operating in Paktika Province, like ISIS-K, Tehrik et Taliban Punjab (TTP), and the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA). It is unclear what measures the Afghan Taliban government is taking to ensure humanitarian workers’ safety. Humanitarian agencies should likely implement heightened security measures like using armored vehicles and wearing bulletproof vests. Coordinating operations of all participating aid agencies will very likely increase the security of the aid response. It is very likely that this coordination will very likely decrease the chances of aid agencies suffering attacks and ambushes by terrorist groups. Such attacks would very likely decrease the provision of aid to those affected, almost certainly worsening the humanitarian situation. Humanitarian workers should remain vigilant of suspicious activity and report concerns to their relevant chain of command. Communication infrastructure disruption will very likely challenge inter-agency coordination.
CTG recommends that relevant UN agencies immediately generate plans to coordinate the arrival, transport, distribution of aid to Afghanistan. CTG advises UN agencies and NGOs operating in southeastern Afghanistan to be vigilant when operating in an area prone to terrorist attacks, implementing security measures and protocols for staff to ensure their safety. Establishing secure alternative lines of communication, like radio or satellite channels, should be prioritized in the aid response. CENTCOM and EMH2 Team will monitor the deployment of aid and rescue efforts and analyze news coverage and reports by international aid organizations' efforts in progress in reconstructing damaged areas, temporarily sheltering those displaced, and feeding the population. CENTCOM will monitor terrorist attacks in southeastern Afghanistan to provide up-to-date intelligence to international aid workers to ensure their safety and plan contingency plans should the situation prove dangerous to their work. CTG’s Worldwide Analysis of Threats, Crime, and Hazards (W.A.T.C.H.) Officers will continue to monitor the development of reconstruction efforts and terrorist attacks in southeastern Afghanistan, providing up-to-date reports on any threats in the area.
 Afghanistan quake kills 1,000 people, deadliest in decades, Associated Press, June 2022, https://apnews.com/article/afghanistan-earthquakes-bacc4c96b7a07b5d7d397bee9eb9d3c8
 Hundreds killed after powerful earthquake hits Afghanistan, The Guardian, June 2022,https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jun/22/afghanistan-earthquake-at-least-130-dead-after-magnitude-quake-strikes
 Hundreds Reported Killed in Southeast Afghanistan From 6.1 Earthquake, Tolonews, June 2022, https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/provincial-178601
 At least 1,000 killed after strong earthquake jolts Afghanistan, Al Jazeera, June 2022, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2022/6/22/dozens-killed-as-6-1-magnitude-quake-shakes-afghanistan-pakistan