Taliban Making a Comeback in Afghanistan
Taliban militants launched new attacks on police posts in southern Afghanistan today. More than four years after the movement's overthrow, the U.S. military acknowledges that the rebels have grown in strength and influence in four southern provinces.
Clashes between the Taliban and allied coalition and Afghan troops have claimed hundreds of lives in the past month. Officers and diplomats are predicting a bloody summer.
The results of the violence can be seen at the main hospital at the coalition airbase outside Kandahar, where most of the casualties are Afghans.
Maj. Allan Case, a National Guardsmen from South Carolina, works as a medical mentor for the U.S.-trained Afghan National Army battalion in Kandahar. Since winter, he has seen a steady stream of Afghan dead and wounded coming in daily from battles and ambushes in the countryside.
He says that for every coalition force member killed, 10 Afghan soldiers are killed, with a similar ratio of wounded.
This is Case's second tour in Afghanistan. He says he is less optimistic about the situation in Afghanistan than he was at the end of his first tour 2004.
"Coming back, the Afghan army has made significant progress, but the war has turned for the worse," Case says.
Francesc Vendrell, the European Union's special envoy to Afghanistan, says the Taliban is stronger in southern Afghanistan than it has been in the past three years. "We have to ask ourselves why and what does it mean?"
"It had been somewhat assumed that Afghanistan was a success, that the mere toppling of the Taliban and the arrival of a person that we trusted like President Karzai was enough to ensure a success," Vendrell says. "That was ... a facile assumption."
The U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Col. Tom Collins, says the Taliban capitalized on the power vacuum in southern Afghanistan left by the weak central government.
"After the fall of the Taliban, there was an expectation that the government would exert its influence quickly, and that hasn't happened," Collins says. "Let's be truthful here. There have been some shortfalls in the government's ability to control the situation down there."
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