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Eight years after 9/11, Taliban roils 80 percent of Afghanistan

The hijacking of a NATO supply truck and Stephen Farrell’s kidnapping have focused attention on rising insecurity in Afghanistan’s north, strikingly illustrated on a new map.

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The map mentioned above also shows supply routes and the incremental increase in Taliban control of the country.

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Frustrated Pashtuns sympathetic to Taliban

While the upsurge in violence is relatively recent, the conditions have been festering for some time, say Mr. Rahmani and Ruttig. The violence has been directly linked to districts with large Pashtun populations, whose grievances the government has long failed to address – making them sympathetic to the Taliban, who share their ethnicity and language.

"The districts which are turning violent are those which have had a very recent history of abuses against the Pashtuns. The government has allowed these conditions to go unaddressed and this is now being addressed by the population by giving shelter to the Taliban and other insurgents," says Prakhar Sharma, the head of research at the Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, an Afghan research organization.

Humanitarian groups concerned, but still operating

The growing insecurity is of particular concern to humanitarian and aid agencies which have been working in the more stable northern areas. Aid agencies like Oxfam, Care, and Save the Children have long argued that they are better able to deliver sustainable aid in these areas than in southern Afghanistan.

In fact many organizations have stopped working in the more insecure areas, not just because of the problems of access but also because of the conditions attached by donors who would like the development aid and humanitarian agencies to be used in pursuit of military goals. Aid groups felt that doing so would compromise their independence

While aid agencies approached by the Monitor said the growing insecurity had not stopped them from working in the north, they all expressed concern over the recent developments.

Ashley Jackson of Oxfam International says staff have had to change the way they work and pull back temporarily after the Kunduz bombing.

"So far we have not seen anything impacting on our work but we are definitely concerned," says Jennifer Rowell of Care. "We would like to make sure that the civil military guidelines are respected as are humanitarian laws and that we have access."

The militarization of aid has made it difficult for organizations like Care to engage in southern Afghanistan, says Ms. Rowell, and "we will have to be extra vigilant in the North."