Afghanistan: signs of progress, but violence surges again: Signs of foreign support, new tactics signal reemergence of Taliban.
By Tom Regan
Christian Science Monitor
A spate of recent violent and sophisticated attacks have officials in Afghanistan worried that Taliban fighters are receiving assistance or direction from foreign sources. The Washington Post reported on Sunday that the attacks increasingly mimic those of insurgents in Iraq, including the use of suicide bombers.
The recent attacks – including at least nine suicide bombings – have shown unusual levels of coordination, technological knowledge and blood lust, according to officials. Although military forces and facilities have been the most common targets, religious leaders, judges, police officers and foreign reconstruction workers have also fallen prey to the violence.
After last September's elections, when violence was relatively minor, Afghan and US officials had hoped that the insurgency was losing strength. But the Post reports that it now seems that the Taliban were using the two months following the elections to "marshal foreign support and plot new ways to undermine the Western-backed government."
This view was echoed by Robert Strang, terrorism analyst and the CEO of Investigation Management Group, on FoxNews Monday. Mr. Strang said that one of the keys to improving the situation in the country was better control of the production of poppies, which are used to make heroin. Heroin remains the largest cash crop in Afghanistan.
The Guardian reported earlier this month that the US is planning to pull out 4,000 troops early next year, and hand over security for much of the country to NATO troops, led by the British. But Simon Tisdall wrote Sunday in The Observer that as in Iraq, the lack of security undermines the country's hopes for economic progress and political stability. The violence also has some NATO countries concerned for the safety of their troops.
With Mullah Omar, the fugitive Taliban leader, threatening intensifying jihad against "all infidel forces," worries are growing in Britain and allied countries about the situation their troops will face next spring, especially in the south, as the US begins to pull back. The basic question, as yet unanswered, is what are peacekeepers supposed to do when there is no peace to keep?
Tisdall writes that part of the problem may be President Bush's "wish to declare Afghanistan a democratic success story even if the facts on the ground tell a different story."
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