Friday, November 23, 2007

Half of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban

According to a report by the Senlis Council, the Taliban has made a remarkable comeback in Afghanistan following their expulsion by NATO forces in 2001. According to the report 54% of the country now has a permanent Taliban presence and they are unchallenged in their control of vast swaths of territory. According to the report:
The current insurgency, divided into a large poverty-driven ´grassroots´ component and a concentrated group of hardcore militant Islamists, is gaining momentum, further complicating the reconstruction and development process and effectively sabotaging NATO-ISAF’s stabilisation mission in the country.

Of particular concern is the apparent import of tactics perfected in Iraq. The emboldened Taliban insurgency is employing such asymmetric warfare tactics as suicide bombings and roadside bombs, causing numerous casualties both among the civilian population and the international and national security forces.
Given the neglect of this conflict by NATO allies, particularly the United States which is pre-occupied in Iraq, the Kabul government may have no choice but to try and work out a deal with these reactionary theocrats in sharing power. As Eric Martin points out, NATO has 40,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan as an international force compared to 160,000 U.S. troops in Iraq. This news is particularly disturbing along with reports that a Pakistani version of the Taliban is growing in strength and in control of parts of that country.

This from Der Spiegel:
The Senlis Council claims over half of Afghanistan is controlled by the Taliban

In war-torn Afghanistan, the Taliban is gaining ground again as it continues its insurgency. A report released Wednesday by the Senlis Council, an international security and development policy think tank, concludes that more than half the entire country is now under Taliban control.

"The Taliban's ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt," the report says, adding that "54 percent of Afghanistan's landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency."

The report, entitled "Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink," is not merely a litany of depressing statistics. It also offers ideas to halt the spread of Taliban influence including a troop "surge." NATO forces, for example, should be doubled from 40,000 to 80,000 "as soon as logistically possible." It also recommends that all present caveats constraining troop deployment be removed and that Muslim countries should supply an additional 9,000 troops to supplement Western forces. And military efforts against the Taliban should extend their reach into Pakistan, with that country's permission.

More than 6,000 people have been killed in insurgency-related violence in 2007 as NATO forces continue to battle against the Taliban, particularly in the volatile south. On Thursday Secretary General Japp de Hoop Scheffer, in Kabul for talks with the Afghan government, admitted that the alliance needed to provide more troops for Afghanistan and more trainers for Afghan forces.

Some members of NATO's coalition forces disagree with the assessment set forth by the Senlis Council. Canada's Defense Minister Peter Mackay told reporters on Wednesday that the report was simply "not credible."

The report was released on the same day as an Oxfam assessment critical of the spending efforts inside Afghanistan by Western powers. "As in Iraq," the report claims, "too much aid is absorbed by profits of companies and subcontractors, on non-Afghan resources and on high expatriate salaries and living costs."

Both reports are grim. Oxfam notes that "the absence of community participation, or association with the military, has led to projects which are unsuitable, unused or targeted by militants." And the Senlis report concludes that "it is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when this will happen and in what form."

Meanwhile on Thursday Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Taliban leaders were increasingly contacting him to try to find ways of making peace. "We are willing to talk," he told reporters in Kabul. "Those of the Taliban who are not part of al-Qaida or the terrorist networks, who do not want to be violent against the Afghan people ... are welcome."
Liberal democracy was always an iffy proposition for central Asia. It may be drifting out of reach unless Western nations with resources start paying attention.


Anonymous said...

I wouldn't trust anything the media says on Afghanistan. Having some close friends serving over there with the British army, it is clear that there is gulf between what we see / hear in the media and the reality on the ground.

For a start, the rank and file of the 'Taliban' are ordinary Afghans who are being paid to fight on that side - and they quickly change sides if they are paid more to act as security for NATO. The ideological element of the Taliban are a small clique of mainly southern Afghans and their Arabs allies.

Also that report is stating that there is a Taliban presence - not Taliban domination.

The reasoning for the slow British withdrawal from Iraq is as much to do with the Afghan situation as it is to do with Iraq. In the words of my army friends, the Afghan project is working - Iraq isn't.

I would also add that these soldiers have seen first hand an Iranian presence in the west of Afghanistan.

You don't have to believe any of this, most people will believe what they want to believe I guess.

Unknown said...

The report is BS, I live in Afghanistan and have for the last 18 months. What a crock. Find out the facts before you repeat this garbage. Mike