Afghanistan war is just beginning: report
Herald Sun.au.com – January 19, 2008
The Taliban has seriously rejoined the fight in Afghanistan, an NGO security group said in a report that concluded the country was at the beginning of a war, not the end of one.
The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) said the Taliban's "easy departure" in 2001, when a US-led invasion drove them from power, was more of a strategic retreat than an actual military defeat.
"A few years from now, 2007 will likely be looked back upon as the year in which the Taliban seriously rejoined the fight and the hopes of a rapid end to conflict were finally set aside by all but the most optimistic," ANSO said.
About 1980 civilians were killed in 2007 - half by insurgents and the rest almost equally by soldiers or criminal groups, the group said.
Abductions and killings were likely to escalate this year, with growing links between insurgents and criminal gangs increasing the threat, ANSO said.
It said the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is helping the government fight insurgents, is "in fact just now entering a period of broad and deep conflict, the outcomes of which are far from certain."
ISAF may number about 41,000 soldiers but "realistically" could not have more than 7000 for combat, with the rest mostly support staff or prevented from fighting because of national restrictions, the group said.
The size of the Taliban force was unknown, but estimates ranged from 2000 to 20,000.
"There would not appear to be any capacity within ISAF to stop or turn back anticipated AOG (armed opposition groups) expansion," the report said.
"In simple terms, the consensus amongst informed individuals at the end of 2007 seems to be that Afghanistan is at the beginning of a war, not the end of one."
Last updated 21/01/2008