Friday, June 27, 2008

Taliban rising says Pentagon report

While NATO/US officials have recently grown hoarse while insisting that Afghan insurgents are not gaining strength in Afghanistan, the Pentagon's latest report puts that spin to rest:

Taliban likely to step up attacks in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON, June 27 (AP) - The Taliban has regrouped after its initial fall from power in Afghanistan and the pace of its attacks is likely to increase this year, according to a Pentagon report that offers a dim view of progress in the nearly seven-year-old war.

Noting that insurgent violence has climbed, the report said that despite U.S. and coalition efforts to capture and kill key leaders, the Taliban is likely to "maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008."

The Taliban, it said, has "coalesced into a resilient insurgency."

At the same time, the Afghan Army and national police are progressing slowly and still lack the trainers they need...

The report described a dual terror threat in Afghanistan that includes the Taliban in the south, and "a more complex, adaptive insurgency" in the east. That fragmented insurgency is made up of groups ranging from al-Qaida and Afghan warlords such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's radical Hezb-i-Islami group to Pakistani militants such as Jaish-e-Mohammed.

Insurgents will continue to challenge the government in southern and eastern Afghanistan, and the may also move to increase their power in the north and west, the report predicted.

The assessment was bluntly pessimistic as it described efforts to train the Army and police.

As of March, it said, just one Army battalion and a headquarters unit could operate independently, while 26 battalions, five brigade headquarters and two corps headquarters units could plan and execute counterinsurgency operations with the support of coalition forces.

In addition, as of the spring, the U.S. had provided only 44 percent of the nearly 2,400 trainers needed for the Afghan Army, and just 39 percent of the mentors for the Afghan police... (link)
In a similar vein, Russia's ambassador to Afghanistan, who has a long history in that country, recently commented on the status of the NATO/US project:
Russia says Taliban influence in Afghanistan steadily growing

BRUSSELS, June 26 (RIA Novosti) - The Taliban is steadily expanding its zone of influence in Afghanistan, the Russian ambassador to Kabul said on Thursday.

The Taliban, ousted from power after a U.S.-led military operation in 2001, have been stepping up their activities in recent months. The radical Islamic movement has vowed to increase attacks in order to undermine the authority of the current Afghan administration.

"Despite the annual increase in the numbers of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the Taliban's area of influence in the country is constantly growing," Zamir Kabulov told reporters after a Russia-NATO Council meeting in Brussels.

"I believe that the Taliban have an influence in more than half of Afghanistan's territory and control up to 20% of that area," he said, adding that there are many places that "are off limits to foreign troops"... (link)

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