Afghanistan violence rises, weakening Karzai government

Taliban attacks are up, making this the worst season since the insurgency began and spurring greater Western troop deployments.

Violence in Afghanistan is increasing, according to recent announcements by senior US and NATO officials. Analysts estimate that this has been the bloodiest spring since the start of the insurgency and that the increasing instability is fueling the call to deploy more troops to the region.

Across the country this week, violence flared. Suicide bombers attacked international soldiers in Kabul today, reports the Associated Press.

The attack targeted two armored SUVs, causing minor damage to the vehicles. None of the soldiers inside the vehicles was wounded or killed, said Lt. Col. David Johnson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition. He did not immediately know the nationalities of the troops.
U.S. troops from a base on the outskirts of Kabul cordoned off the area shortly after the attack.
The blast killed three Afghans and wounded four, said Mohammad Aslam, a police officer at the scene. Small shops line the road, and pedestrians frequently walk alongside the busy route.

On Tuesday at least 24 people were killed in different attacks across the country. The global financial news agency RTT reports that a bomb blast killed eight civilians traveling on a bus in western Afghanistan and a bomb killed three children in Kandahar Province.

...US-led forces in the southern province of Helmand claimed to have killed several militants during an operation in Garmser district on Tuesday.
The U.S.-led coalition also said that "several militants were killed and nine were detained" on Tuesday in an operation targeting "anti-government operations" in the eastern province of Paktia.

More than 1,200 people have been killed this year, the Associated Press estimates. NATO officials claim that the surge in violence is related in part to the recent peace deals between the Pakistani government and the rebels in that country, which allow for a haven for Taliban fighters who cross the border to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

NATO spokesman Mark Laity said militant violence in Afghanistan seems to be getting worse as Pakistan pursues peace with militants in an effort to end a wave of bombings that have killed hundreds of Pakistanis in recent years.
"We understand their desire to come to peace agreements with militants, but there is no real solution if trouble on one side of the (border) is merely transferred to the other side," he said.

Even before the recent settlements, The Christian Science Monitor reported in April that violence had spiked across the country, suggesting that additional factors are contributing to the increase.

In some northern provinces, the Taliban issue "night letters," documents posted to villagers' doors at night threatening them if they support the government or Coalition forces, locals report. The tactic has been highly successful in intimidating residents in the south and quelling support for the international presence.
But analysts say the insurgency is spread not by fear alone: A weak central government and the country's declining socioeconomic situation also bolster militants' efforts. "The population of Afghanistan is becoming disillusioned with the government," Halim Kousary, an analyst with Center for Conflict and Peace Studies, a Kabul-based think tank. "People in the north believe there hasn't been enough reconstruction."

The Long War Journal, an Internet journal covering the "Global War on Terror," suggests:

[The] attacks by the Taliban and "Anti-Government Elements" ... have increased over the past several weeks as the poppy harvest season has ended. The Taliban now has a pool of unemployed harvesters to serve as recruits.

US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen, who echoed NATO's assessment of rising violence levels in a testimony to Congress on Tuesday, says that the US will respond by increasing troop strength, the Associated Press reported.

Mullen said the U.S. is deploying more troops to Afghanistan and encouraging local forces to do the same to contend with a growing insurgency, increased attacks and a burgeoning drug trade.
"In short, a stable Iraq and Afghanistan that are long-term partners and share our commitment to peace will be critical to achieving regional stability and security," he said.

The increased coalition presence might have to deal with an insurgency that is evolving tactically, writes The Daily Telegraph. The British paper reports that the Taliban is turning toward "Iraq-style tactics" – attacking soft targets and acting as a de facto authority in areas of weak central governance – to take the districts surrounding Kabul.

Taliban tactics have shifted sharply away from frontal attacks on Nato forces in the first four months of the year. However, the overall level of violence has risen and roadside bombings are up by 34 per cent overall. At the same time, there have been reports of Taliban fighters moving into several rural districts north and east of Kabul, the capital.
The strategy seeks to exploit local grievances and disillusionment with the Afghan government in rural areas.

The paper reports that the Taliban is seen by many in the districts surrounding the capital as a "credible alternative to the weak US-backed government."

...according to [a] local MP, who stays mostly in Kabul these days, the population has lost faith in the government.
"President [Hamid] Karzai got 40,000 votes from Kapisa Province, but now he wouldn't get five," said Abdul Hadi Safi.
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