James Forsyth

Violence in Afghanistan is now the highest it has been since the fall of the Taliban government

Violence in Afghanistan is now the highest it has been since the fall of the Taliban government
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General Petraeus’s comments yesterday, reported by the Washington Post, that violence in Afghanistan is now at its highest level since the toppling of the Taliban shows how bad the situation has got there. But interestingly:

“Two-thirds of all the attacks in Afghanistan are concentrated in about 10 percent of the country's districts”

If the coming surge of US forces into the country, can get a grip on the violence in these areas there is a real chance to put the country on a path back to something approaching stability. However, as Petraeus acknowledge the surge in Afghanistan will have to be different from the one in Iraq that succeeded in reducing the violence so dramatically:

Petraeus said that in combating the largely rural insurgency of Afghanistan, it will not be possible for U.S. forces to move into neighborhoods the same way they did in Iraqi cities.

"You don't live among the people in Afghanistan," he said. "First of all, there's no empty houses. Second, the villages particularly in the rural areas tend to be small." Instead, he said, U.S. troops will establish outposts on high ground from which they can oversee nearby villages as well as roads leading in and out.

This approach, which Petraeus called both "culturally and operationally correct," will reduce the likelihood that the presence of U.S. forces will draw the fighting into rural communities, which would lead to more civilian casualties.

If the surge in Afghanistan does not succeed in reducing the violence, then the coalition will face a huge strategic and political dilemma. Afghanistan cannot be allowed to once more become a sanctuary for terrorists with global ambitions, but it is hard to see how public support can be maintained for a holding / damage limitation exercise.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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