Source: World Security Institute
General Security Situation
This month saw the Taliban, in a display of force and coordination, launch a daring prison break at a large facility in Kandahar freeing nearly 1,000 prisoners and around 400 Taliban fighters. While the coalition has been shifting troops to meet the security demands of the present situation, the American government has had difficulty convincing allied nations to send more troops and resources to the country. Coalition deaths in Afghanistan have overtaken those in Iraq for the second consecutive month, and the populaces of many coalition allies do not want their troops there. Caveats are becoming an increasing problem, as some troops within ISAF are constrained by orders to patrol only certain provinces, not to engage in offensive operations, or not to patrol at night.
Cell phone towers have also become a popular target for the Taliban, as Afghans often call in positions of the insurgents. The Taliban has repeatedly threatened cell phone networks unless their towers are shut down during the night, when they often launch their operations. Approximately 50 cell towers have been attacked in Helmand province alone since the beginning of the year. This is just one tactic among many new ploys the Taliban have been employing. The main Taliban approach has been to exert their influence in as wide an extent as possible. Infiltration of villages has become widespread as coalition forces struggle to hold the ground after clearing out the insurgents. The Taliban also take reprisals against villagers who cooperate with ISAF, and in regions that have heavy Taliban influence, particularly the south and eastern provinces, obtaining trust from the Afghan people is difficult for the coalition forces.
Close air support for coalition and Afghan troops has resulted in limited casualties during engagements, but has caused a row in Pakistan after 21 Pakistanis were killed in an air strike. The incident highlights one of the fundamental issues NATO has in dealing with Afghanistan: Pakistan acting as a launching board for attacks and safe haven for the Taliban. Pakistan’s policy toward its essentially autonomous tribal area has long been a target for U.S. criticism, particularly after Pakistanis agreed to a ceasefire with the Taliban last month.
Cross border incidents have become such a problem that they have caused an exasperated Afghan President Hamid Karzai, facing numerous political, ethical and legitimacy problems at home, to state that Afghanistan may consider sending troops into the region. Concurrently, a report was released that alluded to the U.S. congressional leadership giving President George W. Bush authority to authorize large-scale, covert missions into Pakistan to hunt down Osama bin Laden.