The Latest From Afghanistan: Taliban Making Major Gains
There is a lot of contradictory reporting about Afghanistan. Part of the problem, as Joshua Foust notes, is that there are few reporters in the country for more than two or three months at a time (and fewer still that ever leave Kabul.) If you believe Ann Marlowe at The Weekly Standard, for example, the Taliban are on their way out. Such an assessment seems a bit optimistic, however.
Thankfully, I would venture to say that a more accurate — but much more depressing — picture of what’s going on in the country was presented recently in a report by the Senlis Council, an organization with extensive experience in Afghanistan. Via The Guardian, we learn that the report has few positive things to say about the success of NATO’s counterinsurgency campaign. The Taliban now has a “permanent presence” in 54% of Afghanistan and the rest of the country is in serious danger of meeting the same fate. Indeed, Taliban militants control “vast swaths of unchallenged territory, including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries.” Moreover, one of the most distressing findings provides a clear indication that our much-vaunted new counterinsurgency tactics need some readjusting: the Taliban insurgency, the report ominously states, is “gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people…”
Why the jump in support for the Taliban? Sarah Chayes, writing in The Washington Post, gets at one of the major reasons for the rising hostility towards Kabul and the increasing sympathy for Taliban militants:
…the Afghan people are at the limit of their endurance with a government that pillages and brutalizes them and lies to them barefaced. Judges demand fortunes for positive verdicts. Customs agents expect kickbacks for every transaction. Police officers shake people down or kidnap them for ransom. Six years of depredations by the government have led to its rejection — and to resentment of the international community that installed it and then refused to supervise it. From those feelings of anger have spread pools of collaboration with the Taliban.