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 latest quarterly report from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office is about as bleak as they come. It's worth quoting the first paragraph of the report in full: "The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (Taliban) counter-offensive is increasingly mature, complex and effective. Country-wide attacks have grown by 59% while sophisticated recruitment techniques have helped activate networks of fighters in the North where European NATO contributors have failed to provide an adequate deterrent. Some provinces here are experiencing double the country average growth rate and their districts are in danger of slipping beyong any control. Clumsy attempts to stem the developments, through the formation of local militias and intelligence-poor operations, have served to polarise communities with the IEA capitalising on the local grievances that result. In the South, despite more robust efforts from the US NATO contingents, counter-insurgency operations in Kandahar and Marjah have similarly failed to degrade the IEA's ability to fight, reduce the number of civilian combat fatalities or deliver boxed government." The map above, taken from the report, shows in red the provinces that have severely deteriorated this year and overlays them onto NATO command areas. Four out of 12 of these provinces are in Regional Command North, with less than nine per cent of all troops, while two out of 12 are in RCs South and South West, which have 53 per cent of the total troops. The four northerly provinces have all seen huge increases in security incidents. Baghlan, for example, has only 300 troops, but has seen a 140 per cent increase in attacks. This suggests that much of the growth in instability reflects the absence, not the presence of NATO troops.