Friday, July 25, 2008

An Afghan surge?

Inter Press Service's Anand Gopal outlines the current situation and weighs in on the potential for a surge of US troops in Afghanistan:

Taliban Encroach On Karzai's Turf
By Anand Gopal

July 24 (IPS)

... The Taliban has also increased its presence throughout the country and particularly in the areas around Kabul. Reports from the Ghazni province indicate that they control most districts after nightfall. In Kunar and Nuristan provinces, police are no longer establishing security checkpoints, giving the Taliban nearly complete freedom of movement.

Meanwhile, a leaked U.S. document obtained by the Canadian Globe and Mail reveals that more districts in Kandahar are controlled by the Taliban than by the Afghan government, although the most populous regions are still under Kabul's command.

Insurgents have used the expanding influence as a launching pad for attacks against U.S.-led forces.

Last week, close to 200 Taliban fighters stormed an isolated U.S. outpost, killing nine American soldiers - the largest single loss of American personnel in three years. One hundred and thirty eight U.S. troops have been killed so far this year, far ahead of the 2007 pace.

The gathering storm is pushing American lawmakers to consider bolstering troop numbers...

Barack Obama is promising to send two brigades, or more than 7,000 soldiers, while simultaneously decreasing troop amounts in Iraq. His rival John McCain echoes a similar strategy, albeit without affecting Iraq troop levels.

Such an approach assumes that violence is increasing due to inadequate troop cover. However, violence has increased sharply in the last year, despite the fact that the NATO-led force grew from 37,500 in January of 2007 to 53,000 today.

Many Afghans insist that without tackling the underlying problems of poverty and lack of infrastructure, 7,000 more soldiers will do little to stanch the violent trends... (link)

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