Rod Nordland / New York Times – 2010-09-12 23:19:57
KABUL (September 12, 2010) — Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups.
Large parts of the country that were once completely safe, like most of the northern provinces, now have a substantial Taliban presence. As NATO forces poured in and shifted to the south to battle the Taliban in their stronghold, the Taliban responded with a surge of their own, greatly increasing their activities in the north and parts of the east.
The worsening security comes as the Obama administration is under increasing pressure to show results to maintain public support for the war, and raises serious concerns about whether the country can hold legitimate nationwide elections for parliament next Saturday.
Unarmed government employees can no longer travel safely in 30 percent of the country’s 368 districts, according to published UN estimates, and there are districts deemed too dangerous to visit in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces.
The number of insurgent attacks has increased significantly; in August 2009, insurgents carried out 630 attacks. This August, they initiated at least 1,353, according to the Afghan NGO Safety Office, an independent organization financed by Western governments and agencies to monitor safety for aid workers.
The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, does not routinely release detailed data on attacks around the country, and the Afghan government stopped doing so in mid-2009. UN officials have also stopped releasing details of attacks, though they monitor them closely. Requests for access to that information were denied.
ISAF officials dispute the notion that security is slipping from them, pointing to their successes with targeted killings and captures of Taliban field commanders and members of the Taliban shadow government.
American military officials say the increased level of violence is related to the rise in the number of its forces in Afghanistan. The result is more military operations, they say, and more opportunities for the insurgents to attack coalition forces.
That does not entirely explain the increased activity of the Taliban in areas where they were seldom seen before, and where the coalition presence is light, however.
The Afghan NGO Safety Office says that by almost every metric it has, Afghanistan is more dangerous now than at any time since 2001.
Military officials counter that they are making headway against the Taliban. Gen. David Petraeus, the ISAF commander, said recently that NATO forces had killed or captured 2,974 insurgents this summer, 235 of them commanders. Last December, the military assessed Taliban strength at 25,000.
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