A large part of the population in low-income countries (LICs) lives in fragile and conflict-affected states. Many cities in these states show high growth dynamics, but little is known about the relation of conflicts and urban growth. In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime, which lasted from 1996 to 2001, caused large scale displacement of the population. People from Afghanistan migrated to neighboring countries like Iran and Pakistan, and all developments came to a halt. After the US invasion in October 2001, all the major cities in Afghanistan experienced significant population growth, in particular, driven by the influx of internally displaced persons. Maximum pressure of this influx was felt by the capital city, Kabul. This rapid urbanization, combined with very limited capacity of local authorities to deal with this growth, led to unplanned urbanization and challenges for urban planning and management. This study analyses the patterns of growth between 2001 and 2017, and the factors influencing the growth in the city of Kabul with the help of high-resolution Earth Observation-based data (EO) and spatial logistic regression modelling. We analyze settlement patterns by extracting image features from high-resolution images (aerial photographs of 2017) and terrain features as input to a random forest classifier. The urban growth is analyzed using an available built-up map (extracted from IKONOS images for the year 2001). Results indicate that unplanned settlements have grown 4.5 times during this period, whereas planned settlements have grown only 1.25 times. The unplanned settlements expanded mostly towards the west and north west parts of the city, and the growth of planned settlements happened mainly in the central and eastern parts of the city. Population density and the locations of military bases are the most important factors that influence the growth, of both planned and unplanned settlements. The growth of unplanned settlement occurs predominantly in areas of steeper slopes on the hillside, while planned settlements are on gentle slopes and closer to the institutional areas (central and eastern parts of the city). We conclude that security and availability of infrastructure were the main drivers of growth for planned settlements, whereas unplanned growth, mainly on hillsides, was driven by the availability of land with poor infrastructure.
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