The Afghan-Pakistan War
January 31, 2008
Despite continued violence, the threat in Afghanistan has not increased to the point where it can challenge NATO/ISAF forces in open combat, the US has made major gains in striking at the leadership of the various mix of hostile Islamist movements in the south, and similar gains have been scored against the more traditional Taliban leadership in the south.
The attached briefing, however, provides a broader view of the rising level of violence in the country based on a visit to Afghanistan in late January 2008, and unclassified data from the UN, NATO/ISAF, and US sources in Afghanistan. It provides an analytic overview of threat developments that map and chart a growing overall threat in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
It shows that the more traditional Taliban structure under the Mullah Omar in the south remains a major problem, and that the mix of Taliban and other Islamist elements in the East has become far more sophisticated and cooperative during the course of 2007. Al Qa'ida influence over the Afghan groups has increased, and the combined role of Al Qa'ida and the emerging Pakistani Taliban has sharply increased in influence and in the territory over which it has de facto control.
Taliban support areas inside both Afghanistan and Pakistan have increased during 2007, and the Taliban has expanded its control over political and economic space in the south, far northeast, the area around Kabul, and in the central, western, and northwestern areas of Afghanistan. As the briefing shows, US experts in Afghanistan believe that the Taliban has set very clear objectives to expand its activity throughout the country in 2008, and into previously secure provinces and districts.
The situation in Pakistan is shown as critical, and few in Afghanistan or Pakistan believe the situation will not deteriorate even further in 2008 unless the Pakistani government takes far more decisive action than it has to date. Experts do, however, question Pakistan's willingness to act, the role of the ISI in supporting the Taliban and other threat elements, and whether the Pakistani Army and government are acting with anything like their claimed firmness.
Finally, the data on narcotics are deeply disturbing. The maps and charts in the briefing not only show a major increase in opium production, but a major shift to Taliban controlled areas. The end result of current eradication programs seems to be to effectively allow the Taliban to make major increases in its finances.