Taliban Consolidating Its Grip on Afghanistan?

| Tue Jun. 30, 2009 3:48 PM EDT

The Taliban's resurgence in Afghanistan has so far been concentrated in the south and east of the country, but according to a new report, they could emerge as a national insurgency within two years. Gilles Dorronsoro, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, writes that the Taliban's rapid expansion is the result of its own operational strengths, both in terms of strong leadership and effective propaganda, combined with the West's continued underestimation of its powers. With increasing numbers of US troops bound for Afghanistan, Dorronsoro recommends that they be posted to areas in which the Taliban have yet to concentrate in order to prevent these regions from falling victim to insurgents. "If the Coalition reinforced the Afghan police and military in the North," he says, "the insurgents could be stopped relatively easily."

From a press release describing Dorronsoro's report:

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  • The Taliban have built a parallel government in areas they control to fulfill two basic needs: justice and security. An almost nonexistent local government and the population’s distrust of the international coalition allowed the Taliban to expand their influence.
  • Focusing resources in the South and East, where the insurgency is strongest, is risky, especially since the Afghan army is not ready to replace U.S. forces there.
  • The Taliban have opened a front in the northern provinces, having consolidated their grip on the South and East. If the International Coalition does not counter this thrust, the insurgency will spread throughout Afghanistan within two to three years and the coalition will not be able to bear the financial and human costs of fighting.
  • The insurgency cannot be defeated while the Taliban retain a safe haven in Pakistan. The Taliban can conduct hit-and-run attacks from their refuge in Pakistan, and the North remains open to infiltration.
  • The United States must pressure Pakistan to take action against the Taliban’s central command in Quetta. The current offensive in Pakistan is aimed at Pakistani Taliban and does not indicate a major shift in Pakistani policy toward Afghanistan.
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