Friday, December 21, 2007

... And Bad News In Afghanistan (SENLIS)

I have to say up front that I am not familiar with the SENLIS Council. I stumbled on its November, 2007 report, "Stumbling Into Chaos: Afghanistan On The Brink" (Download full report here) by accident. The organization advertises itself as: "... an international policy think tank with country offices in Kabul, London, Ottawa, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Brussels. The Council’s work encompasses foreign policy, security, development, and counter-narcotics policies, and aims to provide innovative analysis and proposals within these areas." Further research into its Board Of Advisors and recent activities also suggest that it is, at least, reasonably reputable.

The report (and the SENLIS website) is certainly worth reviewing. While the tone set by the title is often mirrored in the text, there are numerous excellent graphs and pictures based, presumably, on primary source info collected by SENLIS (I particularly appreciate the picture of the "Taliban Passport" and the chart showing the increase in the price of weapons in southern Afghanistan in 2007).

Highlights from the summary include (Boldface in original but italics are mine):

  • "The Taliban has proven itself to be a truly resurgent force. Its ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; research undertaken by Senlis Afghanistan indicates that 54 per cent of Afghanistan’s landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency."
  • "The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centres, and important road arteries. The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change."
  • "The depressing conclusion is that, despite the vast injections of international capital flowing into the country, and a universal desire to ‘succeed’ in Afghanistan, the state is once again in serious danger of falling into the hands of the Taliban."
  • "Of particular concern is the apparent import of tactics perfected in Iraq. The emboldened Taliban insurgency is employing such asymmetric warfare tactics as suicide bombings and roadside bombs, causing numerous casualties both among the civilian population and the international and national security forces." (Compare with this report. Is it possible that bin Laden has read Sun Tzu, too?)
  • "Increased lawlessness and lack of government control in the border areas with Pakistan are directly and indirectly fueling the insurgency through the flow of new recruits, a stable financial and operational support base and ideological influence inspired by Al-Qaeda. With limited ground troops and facing a massive resistance, Afghan security forces supported by NATO-ISAF are struggling to contain the return of the Taliban."
In addition to this report by SENLIS, those interested in Afghanistan might also be interested in this map posted to the Intellibriefs blog. Caveat: Unlike SENLIS, the accuracy of the sources of the information in the Intellibriefs map is much more difficult to determine.

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