This blog aims to highlight issues and information that don't always make it into the mainstream media. Recognising that comment is cheap, wherever possible it will link you directly to documents and sources that are mentioned in the text.
I realised some time ago that it was impossible to write about Afghanistan without writing about Pakistan and other neighbouring countries. With that in mind, the reader will come across articles that, while not specifically about Afghanistan, in some way shed light on the conflict.
The Taliban now has a permanent presence in 80 per cent of Afghanistan, up from 72 per cent in November 2008 and 54 per cent in 2007, according to information from the International Council on Security and Development released yesterday. (See also my blog from 8 December last year giving details from the previous ICOS report.) Another 17 per cent of the country is seeing 'substantial' Taliban activity and taken together these figures show that the organisation has a significant presence throughout the whole country. “Despite the presence of tens of thousands of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the return, the spread and the advance of the Taliban is now without question” said Norine MacDonald QC, President and lead field researcher for ICOS. “The dramatic change in the last few months has been the deterioration of the situation in the north of Afghanistan, which was previously one of the most stable parts of Afghanistan. Provinces such as Kunduz and Balkh are now heavily affected by Taliban violence. Across the north of Afghanistan, there has been a dramatic increase in the rate of insurgent attacks against international, Afghan government, and civilian targets“, stated Mr. Alexander Jackson, policy analyst at ICOS. ICOS defines the Taliban presence as 'permanent' in a region if there is one or more insurgent attack per week. 'Substantial' implies at least one attack per month.