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Afghanistan in danger of becoming a divided state: Taliban now controls vast swathes of unchallenged territory in Afghanistan

Source: The Senlis Council

LONDON - The Senlis Council on Wednesday called on NATO's troop force size to be doubled to 80,000 after its new security assessment report based on field research during the last month revealed 54% of Afghanistan's landmass now hosts a permanent Taliban presence.

"The security situation has reached crisis proportions. The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, border areas, some district centres, and important road arteries" said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of The Senlis Council.

The disturbing conclusion is that, despite a universal desire to 'succeed' in Afghanistan, Afghanistan is in grave danger of becoming a divided state. The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south. Exploiting public frustration over poverty and inflammatory US-led counter narcotics policies, the Taliban are gaining increasing political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people.

"It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears not to be whether the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when this will happen" said MacDonald. "Their stated aim of reaching the city in 2008 appears more viable than ever, and it is incumbent upon the international community to implement a dramatic change in strategy before time runs out. Defeat in Afghanistan would be catastrophic to global security, and risks making NATO irrelevant."

'NATO Plus' initiative needed: double troop levels, remove all caveats, move into Pakistan

Insufficient ground troops and restrictive caveats imposed upon them by several European governments have made it almost impossible for NATO-ISAF forces to contain the return of the Taliban. Frequently, NATO-ISAF forces are forced to return to fight in areas previously cleared of Taliban, who are benefiting from a seemingly endless supply of potential recruits.

To succeed in Afghanistan, NATO countries must increase their presence in the country, but NATO partners should share this burden equally. A 'NATO Plus' force of 80,000 troops is needed, with all NATO countries contributing at least 2.3 soldiers per $1 billion of their GDP . This would ensure the increase of troops to 71,000 - the remaining 9,000 troops should be invited to come in from Muslim countries.

"Not only would the creation of this 'NATO Plus' force improve the chances of defeating the Taliban, it would also send out a strong political message to the Afghan people that a caveat-free, pan-cultural, international community force is there in support of the Karzai Government to ensure stability in Afghanistan," said Paul Burton, The Senlis Council's Head of Policy Analysis in London.

NATO countries taking the position that they will not send sufficient troops, or continue to maintain their caveats that restrict troops fighting in the South is a luxury that we can no longer afford if we do not want to lose Afghanistan - the continuation of such policies is tantamount to an abandonment of the Karzai government and the Afghan people", said MacDonald

Senlis also called on NATO forces to urgently enter Pakistan's North West Frontier Province, which has become a training ground for Taliban and Al-Qaeda elements. According to the Senlis report, such an increase in their activities would never have been possible without a sanctuary outside Afghanistan.

"The Taliban have established firm roots across the border in Pakistan. President Musharraf has been unable to deal with these bases, and as a result it is impossible to stop the growth of the insurgency in Afghanistan," said MacDonald. "NATO troops in Pakistan are therefore urgently required to quell this growing threat, and ensure that this area is closed down as a home base for the Taliban and Al Qaeda," she added.

'Combat aid agencies' required: aid and development spending must match military spending

In the past six years, food and development aid in southern Afghanistan has failed to meet the basic needs of the region's thousands of victims of fighting, drought, poppy crop eradication and bombing campaigns. For the Afghan state to stand a chance of recovering from its present position, it is imperative that effective development efforts are central to the overall mission.

The Council called for "Combat Aid agencies" to be established, which would see the British and Canadian militaries in charge of the delivery of aid to warzones in the south. These militaries should be handed control of the warzone budgets of the countries' development agencies, DFID and CIDA, while aid and development funding should match military funding.

"The delivery of food and development aid by the British and Canadian militaries would be a huge boost to the hearts and minds campaign of both governments in southern Afghanistan," said MacDonald. "This would be an excellent counter-insurgency strategy - strengthening ties with the local communities, which is the only viable way to defeat the insurgency in Afghanistan."

Poppy for Medicine: next instalment of pilot projects specifications released

The Senlis Council also released a Research Update on its Poppy for Medicine initiative, which sets out the specifications for a scientific pilot project in the next planting season to test the benefits generated by the legal production of morphine by Afghan poppy farmers.

In October, the European Parliament endorsed the Poppy for Medicine with an overwhelming majority, and urged the Council of the European Union to further investigate the systems necessary for the Afghan poppy farmers to grow poppy for morphine. Afghanistan is currently the world largest producer of opium for heroin. Enabling Afghan farmers to grow poppies for medicinal morphine would also meet a global shortage of painkilling medicines.

"The European consensus on Afghan counter-narcotics is two-fold: On the one hand, the Parliament agreed with the need to investigate all possible economic solutions to address the opium crisis including Poppy for Medicine. On the other hand, it agreed that chemical spraying of poppy crops should not be an option in Afghanistan," said Jorrit Kamminga, Senlis Head of Policy Research in Paris.

"The latter is extremely important as the United States is planning aerial spraying of Afghan rural areas early next year. Chemical spraying of farming communities would mean we lose any hope of ever winning back the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. It would spell utter disaster for NATO's stabilization mission in the country," Kamminga added.
Full Report available on The Senlis Council's web site.

... Payvand News - 11/22/07 ... --

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