Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Taliban control six districts in Kandahar

Graeme Smith of the Globe and Mail has the story:

Taliban control more of Kandahar than government, U.S. says

KANDAHAR, July 15 — More districts of Kandahar are controlled by the Taliban than by the Afghan government, according to a U.S. assessment that casts doubt on Canada's upbeat view of the war.

A detailed analysis by U.S. security officials shows that foreign troops and their local allies hold sway over the core, highly populated districts of Kandahar, but the zone of government control remains a small part of the vast territory assigned to Canadian responsibility two years ago.

The assessment divides Kandahar's districts into four categories: contested, Taliban controlled, locally controlled, and government controlled. Only four of 16 districts were classified as government controlled. The Taliban were described as controlling six districts.

The rest are held by local tribes or warlords, or they are battlefields with nobody clearly dominating.

The study was completed in January, but the findings were made available only recently to The Globe and Mail...

Other assessments of the province have been even more pessimistic: Over the past two years, the United Nations' periodically updated security maps have shown encroaching areas of “extreme risk” filling large swaths of the countryside described as government controlled in the U.S. assessment...

The districts listed as government-controlled – Kandahar city, Arghandab, Spin Boldak and Daman – are among the most heavily populated. Other areas listed as contested, Zhari and Panjwai districts, also contain large populations and have been the focus of Canada's most intense military effort.

At the same time, Canada's regular troops have abandoned positions in the north of the province over the past two years, including Ghorak district centre, about 70 kilometres northwest of Kandahar city; Forward Operating Base Martello, about 100 kilometres north of Kandahar city; and Gumbad Platoon House, about 80 kilometres north of Kandahar city.

These outposts were located in districts now listed as Taliban-controlled in the U.S. assessment.

Many other provinces also suffer from a strong Taliban presence according to the analysis, which found insurgents controlling or contesting roughly 130 of 398 districts assessed across the country... (link)

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