This country guidance is currently under review. In view of the recent significant changes, notably the Taliban takeover, assessments within this document may no longer be valid. When examining the international protection needs of applicants from Afghanistan, please consider the most up-to-date country of origin information available.
The criterion of safety would be satisfied where the following two aspects have been established:
✓ absence of the initial persecution or serious harm
With regard to protection needs related to refugee status, Article 15(a) QD and Article 15(b) QD, this should be examined in light of the elements below. In the context of IPA concerning serious harm under Article 15(c) QD, it should be established that in the area considered under IPA the applicant would not face a real risk of such serious harm by reason of indiscriminate violence.
✓ no potential new forms of persecution or serious harm
The case officer should also establish that there are no potential new forms of persecution or serious harm in the area where IPA is considered for the applicant.  The analysis under the chapters 2. Refugee status and 3. Subsidiary protection should be referred to in this regard.
These elements should be examined based on the general situation in the respective part of Afghanistan and the individual position and personal circumstances of the applicant, including elements such as background, gender, age, etc. (see Article 8(2) QD in reference to Article 4 QD).
Absence of persecution or serious harm
When assessing the requirement of safety with regard to the applicability of IPA in individual cases of applicants from Afghanistan, the following elements should be taken into account:
► general security situation
The general situation in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif is assessed in light of the indicators of indiscriminate violence in the section 3.3 Article 15(c) QD. The conclusions with regard to the three cities are as follows:
■ In Kabul City, indiscriminate violence is taking place, however not at a high level and, accordingly, a higher level of individual elements is required in order to show substantial grounds for believing that a civilian, returned to the territory, would face a real risk of serious harm in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD.
■ In Herat City, indiscriminate violence is taking place at such a low level that in general there is no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected by reason of indiscriminate violence in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD. However, individual elements always need to be taken into account as they could put the applicant in risk-enhancing situations.
■ In Mazar-e Sharif, indiscriminate violence is taking place at such a low level that in general there is no real risk for a civilian to be personally affected by reason of indiscriminate violence in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD. However, individual elements always need to be taken into account as they could put the applicant in risk-enhancing situations.
It can be concluded that the general security situation in the cities of Kabul, Herat and Mazar-e Sharif does not preclude the consideration of the three cities as IPA. However, a careful examination of the safety requirement with regard to IPA should take place, particularly when assessing the availability of IPA to Kabul.
► actor of persecution or serious harm and their reach
In case where the person fears persecution or serious harm by the Afghan State, there is a presumption that IPA would not be available. In specific cases, where the reach of a certain State actor is clearly limited to a particular geographical area, the criterion of safety may be satisfied with regard to other parts of Afghanistan.
Individuals threatened by AGEs often relocate to the cities for their safety [Key socio-economic indicators 2020, 1.2].
When assessing the safety of IPA in case of persecution or serious harm by the Taliban, particular consideration should be given to the individual circumstances of the applicant, the capacity of the Taliban to track and target individuals in the cities, the way the applicant is perceived by the Taliban and whether or not a personal enmity is at stake, etc. [Conflict targeting, 1.4.3].
For individuals who fear persecution or serious harm by other armed groups such as the Haqqani Network or ISKP, the reach of the particular group and their ability to track and target individuals in the cities should be individually assessed; in most cases the requirement of safety could be satisfied. The operational capacity of such groups to undertake high profile attacks in Kabul and Herat should be taken into account in the individual assessment [Anti-Government Elements, 3.2, 3.6, 4.1; Security situation 2020, 2.1.3., 2.13.3].
In some cases, where the applicant faces persecution or serious harm for reasons related to the prevalent social norms in Afghanistan and the actor of persecution or serious harm can be the Afghan society at large (e.g. for 2.14 LGBTIQ, 2.16 Individuals considered to have committed blasphemy and/or apostasy), IPA would in general not be safe. It should also be underlined that it cannot be reasonably expected that the applicant abstains from practices fundamental to his or her identity, such as those related to their religion or sexual orientation, in order to avoid the risk of persecution or serious harm. 
For certain particularly vulnerable individuals, such as women, children and persons with visible mental or physical disabilities, if the actor of persecution or serious harm is the family or the community of the applicant (e.g. forced marriage, honour crime), taking into account the lack of State protection and their vulnerability to potential new forms of persecution or serious harm, IPA would in general not be safe.
See the chapter 1. Actors of persecution or serious harm.
► whether or not the profile of the applicant is considered as a priority target and/or a threat by the actor of persecution or serious harm
The profile of the applicant could make him or her a priority target for the State or for insurgent groups, increasing the likelihood that the actor of persecution or serious harm would attempt to trace the applicant in the potential IPA location.
► personal enmity
Some private disputes, including those based on honour and blood feuds, could strengthen the determination of the actor of persecution or serious harm to trace the applicant.
► other risk-enhancing circumstances
The information under the chapter 2. Refugee status should be used to assist in this assessment.
Availability of protection against persecution or serious harm
Alternatively, it may be determined that the requirement of safety is satisfied if the applicant would have access to protection against persecution or serious harm, as defined in Article 7 QD, in the area where IPA is considered. Taking into consideration that the Afghan State is in general unable to provide protection, which is effective, non-temporary and accessible, the applicability of IPA would depend on establishing the absence of persecution or serious harm in the area in question.
See the chapter 4. Actors of protection.