By Khalid Hasan
WASHINGTON: Resurgent Taliban, according to a new report, “have turned much of Afghanistan into ‘No Go’ zones for aid workers and civilians”.
The report, issued by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) this week, says the security situation in Afghanistan is assessed by most analysts as having deteriorated at a constant rate through 2007. Statistics show that although the numbers of incidents are higher than comparable periods in 2006, they show the same seasonal pattern.
The nature of the incidents has, however, changed considerably since last year, with high numbers of armed clashes in the field giving way to a combination of armed clashes and asymmetric attacks countrywide. The Afghan National Police (ANP) has become a primary target of insurgents and intimidation of all kinds has increased against the civilian population, especially those perceived to be in support of the government, international military forces as well as the humanitarian and development community.
The more significant change in 2007 is the shift from large-scale armed clashes in the field to asymmetric or terror-style attacks. The former do still take place and as air support is often used, casualty figures are still high. On average, however, these clashes are fewer and smaller than in 2006.
Possible reasons include the high numbers of Taliban fighters killed during summer 2007, including many mid-level and senior commanders. Another reason must be the realisation that these types of attacks are futile against a modern conventionally equipped military force supported by a wide range of aircraft.
According to the CSIS report, insurgency within the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) has significantly evolved over 2007, being no longer a traditional rigid structure, operating in a top to bottom order, and more importantly, no longer a Taliban-dominant insurgent network.
Interacting networks including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, and Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi drive the concept of the insurgency in Afghanistan. The interactions that occur between differing networks are governed by a set of internal rules, a basic ideology, which in turn generate state the entire insurgency.
Over 2007, the Taliban leadership in the south has been weakened as a result of the capture or killing of senior Taliban leaders. While the insurgency in the south remains Taliban-led, the once overarching influence of the Taliban over the insurgency in the east is diminishing. The insurgency in the east has become a conglomerate of disparate insurgent groups, operating independently from the once prevailing influence of the Taliban senior leadership in the south.
"The Taliban has become an alternative source of employment, recruiting the jobless as foot soldiers in the insurgency," US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said in a recent report.
The report notes that 2007 has seen an unprecedented number of offensive actions taken by insurgent elements against the Government of Pakistan and security forces within FATA and the NWFP. To date, Pakistani security forces have been unsuccessful in mitigating insurgent presence, have sustained record losses, and have raised serious questions on the Pakistan military and Frontier Corps’s capacity and capability to conduct effective military operations in FATA and the NWFP against militants and extremists.
The report notes that the GoP plans to reduce the military’s presence within FATA and increase reliance on the less capable Frontier Corps. Under the plan, the military assumes a greater role in the border security mission while the Frontier Corps will have greater focus on security and stability missions within the general populace of FATA/NWFP.
This has the potential to allow for further insurgent gains in FATA and NWFP and embolden a stronger more viable insurgency. Due to the Government of Pakistan’s failed policies and security initiatives within FATA, insurgent elements have been able to expand their influence in the settled areas of NWFP and further solidify greater portions of FATA as insurgent safe-havens.
The report states that the insurgency’s objectives in 2008 have been to retain its sanctuary in FATA, enabling it to reconstitute fighters and plan and stage operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and internationally. It also wants to destabilise the Government of Pakistan and to prevent Islamabad from focusing effective military operations in FATA, defeat the Afghanistan government and the International Security Assistance Force and make the latter pull out so that the Taliban can return to power.