Taliban fighters have a "permanent presence" in 72% of Afghanistan, up from 54% a year ago, and pose a growing threat to the capital Kabul, said a think tank report released on Monday. The report was refuted by the Afghan government.
AFP - Taliban insurgents have a "permanent presence" in almost three-quarters of Afghanistan and pose an increasing threat to the capital Kabul itself, a think tank said Monday.
The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) said in a report that the Taliban had extended its tentacles from its southern powerbase and established itself across large swathes of the country.
"The Taliban now holds a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan, up from 54 percent just a year ago," ICOS said in its report, which was rejected by the Afghan government.
"Taliban forces have advanced from their traditional southern heartlands... to Afghanistan’s western and northwestern provinces, as well as provinces north of Kabul and in Kabul itself," the report said.
For the ICOS, a permanent presence counts as the ability of the Taliban to carry out at least one attack a week.
The Taliban, in government from 1996 to 2001, now pose a serious threat along major routes leading to Kabul, the report added.
"Of the four doors leading out of Kabul, three are now compromised by Taliban activity," it said, adding that the routes are no longer considered safe even within an hour's drive of the city.
The ICOS research said the increased Taliban presence shows the success of the insurgents despite the international community's efforts to drive them out.
"The increase in their geographic spread illustrates that the Taliban’s political, military and economic strategies are now more successful than the West’s in Afghanistan," they said.
But Afghanistan rejected the findings.
"Afghanistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs strongly rejects the assertion by the ICOS on the extent of Taliban's presence across Afghanistan," a statement said, also questioning the methods used by the researchers.
"In addition to the questionable methodology of the report and its conceptual confusion, the report has misinterpreted the sporadic, terrorising and media-oriented activities of the Taliban," it said.
The ministry said the Taliban insurgency was confined to a small number of districts mainly in the south and east of the country and Afghanistan's frontier with Pakistan.
Since they were ousted from power in a US-led invasion in 2001, the Taliban have waged a bloody insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and paralysed the internationally backed reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Date created : 2008-12-09