UN Maps Show Afghan Security Worsens
The Wall Street Journal reports that internal United Nations maps show deterioration in Afghan security during this year's fighting season; the article also notes that there were no security improvements in southern Afghanistan, the focus of current coalition military offensives. Two confidential UN maps obtained by The Wall Street Journal, one showing the situation at the start of this year's fighting season in March and the other towards its end in October, highlight a particular decline in parts of the north and east (AFP) .
The latest reports counter the Obama administration's optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional U.S. forces began a year ago. A White House review of the Afghan War strategy released earlier this month said the current approach has helped to reduce overall Taliban influence and said progress was most evident “in the gains Afghan and coalition forces are making in clearing the Taliban heartland of Kandahar and Helmand provinces.” The New York Times notes that the Haqqani network—the deadliest group of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan--has not conducted a large-scale attack in Kabul for seven months and that American-led commandos, who have escalated raids against the militant group's bomb makers and logisticians, have stymied Taliban momentum.
Meanwhile, at least three people were killed and many more injured after a car bomb exploded (al-Jazeera) near a crowded bank in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
CFR President Richard N. Haass says current policy in Afghanistan is diverting scarce military resources (WSJ) when threats like Iran and North Korea loom and says the return of al-Qaeda can be prevented with far fewer troops.
In a new Foreign Affairs article, CFR's Robert Blackwill looks at a plan B for Afghanistan. He argues a de facto partition of Afghanistan, in which Washington pursues nation building in the north and counterterrorism in the south, offers an acceptable fallback.
In this interview, CFR Senior Fellow Stephen Biddle says the Taliban must be convinced of a firm U.S. commitment in Afghanistan before it will negotiate a settlement, and any deal will have to also involve the Pakistani, U.S., and Afghan governments.