Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Afghanistan at 'beginning' of war, not end says NGO

I'll continue my trend of this week by relating an item which has been largely ignored by Canada's major media.

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) is an NGO which deals (as you might guess) with the question of security for other NGOs in Afghanistan. (See for example this report done in conjunction with CARE.) Their latest report (not available online yet it seems) was released to journalists. Here's what AFP said:

Taliban now seriously in the fight, war begins: NGO

(Jan 19) The Taliban last year "seriously rejoined the fight" in Afghanistan, an NGO security group said in a report that concluded the country was "at the beginning of a war, not the end of one."

It has also become clear that the Taliban's "easy departure" in 2001, when a US-led invasion drove them from power, was "more of a strategic retreat than an actual military defeat," the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) said.

"A few years from now, 2007 will likely be looked back upon as the year in which the Taliban seriously rejoined the fight and the hopes of a rapid end to conflict were finally set aside by all but the most optimistic," ANSO said.

About 1,980 civilians were killed in 2007 -- half by insurgents and the rest almost equally by soldiers or criminal groups, the group said. ...

The size of the Taliban force was unknown, but estimates ranged from 2,000 to 20,000.

"There would not appear to be any capacity within ISAF to stop or turn back anticipated AOG (armed opposition groups) expansion," the report said.

"In simple terms, the consensus amongst informed individuals at the end of 2007 seems to be that Afghanistan is at the beginning of a war, not the end of one." ...

"We totally disagree with those who assert that the 'spring offensive' did not happen and would instead argue that a four-fold increase in armed opposition group initiated attacks Feb to July constitutes a very clear-cut offensive," ANSO said. (link)
It seems that this news is not newsworthy, however. While the Ottawa Citizen, the Vancouver Sun and several of the Sun chain's papers (1,2,3) ran the item on their websites, no major broadsheet dailies featured it in their print editions.

** N.B. Trivia Alert: It's possible that the media was distracted from the ANSO report by a visceral reminder of how badly 'the fight' is going in Afghanistan - the bombing of the Serena Hotel in Kabul. Incidentally, the Globe and Mail is an investor in that hotel, through the Aga Khan Foundation.

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