Winning the War on Terror: Not in Afghanistan

An Afghan policeman destroys poppies in March. ICOS proposes using the poppies for medicine.

Report: Taliban ‘noose’ around Kabul
December 9, 2008

LONDON, England — The Taliban insurgency is widening its presence in Afghanistan and “closing a noose around Kabul,” an international think tank report says.

The report (PDF) — issued Monday by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) — said the Taliban movement “now holds a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan, up from 54 percent a year ago.”

NATO, which commands about 50,000 troops in the country, disputes the figures.

Titled “Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance,” the report said the international community must ramp up grass-roots economic and humanitarian relief to stop the Taliban, the group that once ruled Afghanistan and harbored the al Qaeda terror network when it attacked the United States in 2001.

“It’s a very scary situation,” said Gabrielle Archer, ICOS manager of development policy. “There’s been a dramatic increase in just one year.”

The report said the Taliban have expanded from the country’s southern region to the western and northwestern provinces and near Kabul, “where three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity.”


Dark Pink: Permanent Taliban Presence (72% in 2008) = Average of one or more insurgent attacks per week, according to public record of attacks. It is highly likely that many attacks are not publicly known.

Light Pink: Substantial Taliban Presence (21% in 2008) = Based on number of attacks and local perceptions (Frequency of Taliban sightings)

Grey Areas: Light Taliban Presence (7% in 2008) = Based on number of attacks and local perceptions (Frequency of Taliban sightings)

The colour coded dots on the map represent civilian, military or insurgent fatalities since January 2008

Red = civilian fatalities

Green = military fatalities

Yellow = insurgent fatalities

“Confident in their expansion beyond the rural south, the Taliban are at the gates of the capital and infiltrating the city at will,” according to the ICOS report.

Archer explained the report’s methodology, saying that “permanent presence” is established when there has been one more or insurgent attacks per week in a province.

NATO spokesman James Appathurai, speaking Monday in a BBC radio interview, argued the methodology was faulty. He also said that while the state of affairs “is not exactly at a tipping point of success,” it’s not as bad as the report suggests.

But ICOS’ Archer says the evidence shows that the “Taliban are calling the shots, politically and militarily.”

The report says there has been “talk of reconciliation and power sharing” between moderate Taliban and elected officials nationally. It says the Taliban have filled a governance void locally.

ICOS says military “intervention and intelligence” should continue to be supported, and it wants the number of troops under NATO command increased to 80,000. But military action alone isn’t the answer, it said.

The report urges “closer collaboration between military and development efforts” and says job creation, health care, shelter, effective counter-narcotics policies, literacy, the rule of law, and a free media should also be viewed as “key security instruments.”

Archer also echoed the report’s assertion that even after seven years in the country, the international community hasn’t been able to make sure that every Afghan citizen has access to food and water and that there has been a “lack of effective aid and development” in the country.

ICOS said the Taliban use strong recruitment and propaganda efforts to make inroads among local Afghans — many of whom are disappointed by the failure of the West to eliminate grinding poverty and angered by civilian casualties caused by Western airstrikes targeting insurgents.

“They can move at will and blend into the country at will,” Archer said, emphasizing that the many young, impoverished and jobless Afghans who are listening to the Taliban “are getting angrier and angrier and angrier.”

The report calls for alternatives to fighting the Afghan drug trade, which helps fund Islamic militants and has a long reach into Western cities.

It said that “forced poppy eradication and chemical spraying” to combat the production has served to aggravate “the security situation in Afghanistan, precluding the very reconstruction and development necessary to remove Afghan farmers’ need to cultivate poppy.”

It says the poppy crop should be used for medical purposes in an effort to bring “illegal poppy cultivation under control” and to address the lack of alternatives communities have to the income provided by opium farming.

“In this process, all economic profits from medicine sales remain in the rural community, allowing for economic diversification. The ‘fair trade’ brand of Afghan morphine generated by the scheme would also provide emerging and transitional economies with access to affordable essential painkilling medicines,” the report said.

President-elect Barack Obama has said Afghanistan is the central front in the war on terror and wants to deploy more troops to the country.

Archer said the report notes that the international community can’t just wait for Obama to come up with a plan to deal with problems there; it must act now.

“The longevity of a plan for Afghanistan should not be contingent upon the U.S. electoral cycle and it is wrong for any actor to simply wait for President-elect Obama’s Afghan plan,” ICOS said.

NATO’s Appathurai said the Taliban insurgency has been intensifying its activities in areas where it already has been based — the south and the east, but it doesn’t hold territory in any areas where the Afghan and international forces can go.

He also said one of the problems with the report is that it conflates Taliban activity with criminal activity. He said the problems near the capital will be addressed by 3,000 or so U.S. troops to be arriving there soon.

Source / CNN/Asia

Thanks to Axis of Logic and Les Blough for the map and legend / The Rag Blog

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5 Responses to Winning the War on Terror: Not in Afghanistan

  1. A good article – of course most of us realize this is where we should have STARTED, rather than wasting billions (and time and lives) in Iraq!

    Talk about ‘back-tracking’ and the ‘cost to do so’….

    Somehow, I think the whole thing involved more than just dim-witted GWB – doing things ‘bass-ackwards’ seems to make big money for certain a-holes, and I’d bet $1000 cash, that it

  2. Happy, you are so cool and I really enoy your comments on TRB — and I’ve got no truck with addictive white powders myself — but the beneficial effects of cannabis in neuroprotection are increasingly well-documented, preserving brain cells’ ability to function properly to receive and process information — psychedelics such as LSD, mescaline, and psilocybin simply help open the mind to new information — and for those suffering from intractable pain, or facing painful deaths, the poppy still provides the best and most effective relief, when it is time for the mind to let go of worldly information and open to the infinite. Reducing these complex effects to a “high” (usually a word uttered somewhat sneeringly) simply allows the economic interests that brenefit from prohibition to continue to pull the wool over our eyes. This doesn’t have a lot to do with Afghanistan, obviously — but it does have to do with America’s longest-running and least-successful war, the so-called “war on drugs”. Please, Happy, whatever your personal preferences — and I have never told anybody they ought to smoke weed; that would leave less for me! — open your own mind to the idea that there’s more to mind-state alteration than you might have thought. Check out the informational cannabis website I maintain when you have some time to spend!
    And keep on keeping on! Thanks!

  3. btw, Obama’s plan to send more tr5oops to Afghanistan is one of the things that wories me the most about him, and his Scretary of State designate, Sen. Clinton. Her statement during the primary campaign that Russia “could not be trusted with the resources of Siberia” plays strongly into my discomfort.

    I have not yet heard exactly what a wider war in Afghanistan would be expected to achieve, or how success would be measured. As in Iraq, failure to define fundamental goals and measures would likely lead us into yet another bloody quagmire.

    I’ve been reading Khalid Hosseini this year (thanks to TRB’s Richard Jehn, houseguest extraordinaire). These complex novels, set in an increasingly chaotic Afghanistan by perhaps the only Afghani writer who writes in English (and superbly!), while fictional, exude a sense of realism in setting and description that, I believe, is inarguably genuine. I defy anyone to read Hosseini and tell me how more soldiers are going to help this brutalized nation… and that includes the esteemed Mr. Obama.

    Of course, I am fully aware that advanced capitalism must have continual warfare in order to survive. If that is to be the national agenda, let us at least be forthright in declaring it!

  4. Hi – to Mariann, but after having 6 husbands 4 of which were prolific users of both ‘pot’ and alcohol, I have visible scars from their abuse, and witnessed an ‘indifference’ while they were ‘high on their weed’.

    I also had to bail out 2 of my husbands who went to jail for both using and selling.

    I had to bail out my oldest son years ago for the same thing.

    I had to accept the Navy’s report of another of my son’s being AWOL, as the result of smoking pot and not ‘giving a shit’.

    I lost my 5th husband to his pot-smoking brother who (both) went to Mexico to get their supply; wound up in the clink, and I spent thousands getting them back to the states safely.

    I’m not opposed to the medical use of pot….

    I’m not opposed to it being used as a ‘relaxant’ for those who might suffer hypertension…

    I’m sure the Indians had it packed into their ‘peace pipes’, and if it calmed down the participants to the point there were not slaughters or uprisings, then I’m happy for those results.

    I’m an old lady; a strict lady, and a lady who has seen 3 sisters lose their jobs because they ‘indulged to excess’. I’ve been beaten up by husbands ‘under the influence’, and I’ve seen way too many personal incidents of where pot was simply not the best answer for those who were using it to ‘unwind and escape’.

    I know like any drug, used with proper discipline and for specific situations where it is the ‘answer’ for those under stress; ill, and in turmoil, it has its benefits.

    I do wish pot would at least be made legal because while I don’t want to ever smoke it, I see it as a viable answer and alternative to sucking up booze which often causes violent reactions; damage to the body, and I know that people have used pot to their ‘benefit’, while alcohol has never been to the benefit of anyone.

    My dad shot himself under the influence of alcohol; my cousin killed himself at 34 years of age under the influence of alcohol – another cousin killed himself last year under the influence of alcohol; my sister lives in a mental hospital because of the ‘influence’ – again, alcohol, so if this dangerous ‘drug’ can be made legal, by all means allow pot to be legalized because it certainly can’t be any worse than a bottle of scotch, and I believe is more beneficial than a fifth of Jack Daniels…..

    For me, it’s not the right answer; I like having a clear mind – eat vegetarian; exercise, and stay involved in life in a way that is positive. Like I said, I get my ‘high’ from employing my ‘senses’ that get totally stoked on a fresh glass of orange juice, and a pile of fresh greens. Not very exciting or ‘romantic’; just practical and it works for me.

    Have a good holiday – as usual, I appreciate the wisdom of those who post on the Rag Blog, and those who comment with obvious tolerance and intelligence.

  5. Mariann says:

    Hey Happy — I’m so glad you responded on this one; I was lookin’ for you — glad you agree that the herb should be legal, too, despite the experiences you’ve had — obviously the fact of its illegality has had a lot to do with some of the experiences you cite, like people getting fired from jobs for smoking weed, and others being arrested. As for the bad behavior of people who are stoned and/or drunk, I have seen it, you betcha, and could go into various family detail about that, but won’t (would hate to leave anybody out!!!)– the thing is, it’s not the plant nor even the drink that’s the culprit IN MOST INSTANCES, but the person whose inhibitions have been lowered just enough to let them act out what they’re really feeling. A person who gets high and acts abusive is a sorry excuse for a human being even when straight, in my personal experience.

    I am an old relic in some ways on this list, a surviving hippy toker who won’t shut up about it — but the laws are still hurting people, including many very good, kind, productive, creative, non-abusive people. This doesn’t even get into the economic aspects of prohibition or the potential $$$ benefits of legalization… Anyway — ‘preciate your reply and do keep on talking with us here!

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