Violence spikes in key Afghan regions
A French soldier watches the valley in the Tora
January 24th, 2012
12:01 PM ET

Violence spikes in key Afghan regions

By Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Kabul

Attacks by the Taliban in southern and eastern Afghanistan have risen sharply in recent months, according to figures released by the U.S.-led coalition, a sign that the allied offensive against the insurgency is yet to blunt its potency.

The figures are in contrast to the broader trend of decreasing violence nationwide depicted by the NATO mission. That depiction is challenged by non-government organizations active in Afghanistan; Human Rights Watch describes 2011 as "the most violent year ever."

NATO's International Security and Assistance Force, or ISAF, says overall enemy attacks declined by 9% across the country in 2011. But the number of attacks by the insurgency rose last year by 19% in the east when compared to 2010. A smaller rise was seen in the south of the country, 6%.

These two areas - known by ISAF as RC South and RC East - account for nearly two-thirds of insurgent attacks across the country.The statistics are significant, as NATO is consistently reporting a decrease in violence nationwide, which should pave the way for a handover to Afghan security forces and a NATO withdrawal.

One analyst said the figures from the south are especially noteworthy, as this region was the target of major NATO operations in 2010. Even taking into account the insurgent violence triggered by those 2010 operations, last year was still more violent.

The increase suggests a continuation of fighting during the traditionally quieter winter months. In fact, the south and east of Afghanistan, according to NATO figures, saw a decline in violence in late summer (compared to 2010) only to spike as winter approached.

An ISAF spokesman, Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, said the rise in insurgent attacks was a result of coalition forces taking the fight to the enemy.

"This increase in enemy-initiated attacks is attributed to deliberate operations (surge) in both the east and south by Afghan and ISAF forces in the fall designed to further pressure insurgents in former Taliban strongholds," he said in an e-mail statement.

Cummings added that operations in the south had helped reduce high-profile attacks in the city of Kandahar by about a third compared to 2010.

The issue of whether violence across Afghanistan is rising or falling is key to the NATO-led mission's objective of pacifying the country and handing it over to Afghan forces so NATO combat troops can slowly withdraw by 2014.

Human Rights Watch takes issue with NATO's depiction of declining violence, especially as it affects civilians. The organization's Afghanistan researcher Heather Barr told CNN: "This has been the most violent year ever and the worst year for civilian casualties. If this is what winning looks like, it does not look that way for the Afghan communities experiencing this violence first hand."

Barr said the group's analysis was based on data that it considered credible from the United Nations and from the Afghan Non-government Safety Organization, or ANSO, which uses similar data to ISAF's to evaluate the risk for charity and development groups working nationwide.

A recent U.N. report highlighted a considerable rise in security incidents. ANSO said in its last quarterly report that there was a continuing rise in violence, and that attacks by the insurgency nationwide were 14% higher last year than in 2010.

But ANSO said that is significantly lower than year-on-year rises recorded previously, and it's unclear whether that's because ISAF has the insurgency under pressure or because the insurgents have, ahead of the 2014 withdrawal, made "the calculus that there is no point sprinting to the finish if everyone else has dropped out of the race."

ANSO also challenges NATO's analysis of insurgent violence. Its latest report says the group is unable to analyze NATO statistics that pointed to a 3% reduction in attacks in the first eight months of 2011, compared with the same period in 2010.

But it adds: "We find their suggestion that the insurgency is waning to be a dangerous political fiction that should be given no consideration in NGO risk assessment for the coming year."


Filed under: Afghanistan • ISAF • NATO
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  12. Simon

    This is good news! Anything which proves an ocastble to NATO operations in Afghanistan is good for America and NATO. Historically, Afghanistan has been a graveyard for empires the British, Russians and Americans have spilled and shed much blood and treasure to tame an area which is not worth the investment it has swallowed. In retrospect, Russia's efforts to modernize and secularize Afghanistan remarkably resemble the futile and expensive ideological masturbation we are witnessing today.The time for troops in Afghanistan was before the bombing campaign when the troops could serve as an anvil against which our air forces hammered the Taliban and al-Qaida. Once those Taliban and al-Qaida forces fled to the border regions with Pakistan, ground troops were too little, too late. Why is that so difficult for the pro-intervention civilian advisors to understand?

    March 2, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
  13. nytw

    It is time for American troops to leave. If the Afghans kill each other the world will be a better place.

    January 25, 2012 at 6:36 am | Reply
  14. Pashtunyar

    Oh man, oh man...Shoulda left the Pashtun's alone.

    January 25, 2012 at 1:56 am | Reply
    • The War Criminal General Sherman

      They fear nothing. Nothing.

      January 25, 2012 at 9:43 am | Reply
  15. Saif

    Btw as far as I remember USA said when it was about to invade Afghanistan that it will be a few months war, stone throwing Talibans against the superior missiles and air power, now that like USSR USA is facing defeat it is putting all the blame on Pakistan.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
  16. Tony

    Even the Almighty Genghis Khan couldn't conquer Afghanistan, or the Soviet Union (lasted 10 years before the country fall apart) It is not too late to draw the troops and return in defeat and embarrassment before the Nation is totally bankrupt. Fix the economy here and let the Afghans be Afghans.

    January 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Reply
    • Megamix

      I did enjoy this link that John in Sac had left in the comments at the dpdule German soldiers are wearing their hearts on their sleeves – in the form of a badge that protests their country’s involvement in the war in Afghanistan.Some troops have taken to wearing the cloth accessory that states – ironically – ‘I fight for Merkel’ in a bid to persuade the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to explain exactly what they are fighting and dying for.Four more troops were killed, and five badly injured, in Afghanistan last week.Seven soldiers have died there so far this month, bringing the total to 43 in all since they were first deployed eight years ago.Unable to engage the Taliban directly on the ground, frustrated by their government’s inability to acknowledge they are even engaged in a war and angered by the lack of popular support for their mission, the badges are a low-key mutiny that has sent shock waves through the top brass of the Bundeswehr.

      March 2, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Reply
  17. Anderson Clayton

    NATO is in fact discovering why the Soviets left Afghanistan nearly bankrupted and humiliated...
    But NATO refuses to acept the fact that their mission is failing miserably...
    Just another American led FIASCO!

    January 24, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Reply
    • Jt_flyer

      This is what happens when a nation is controlled by defense contractors.

      January 24, 2012 at 8:50 pm | Reply
  18. rk from NY

    this will go on until US settles the pak problem...pak is hub of terror....pak needs to be isolated and declared terrorist state after their nukes are secured by US..that will end all terror problems in the world.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 24, 2012 at 7:12 pm | Reply
    • fons

      That's what Bush said about Iraq's WMDs. Go fly a kite.

      January 24, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Reply
    • Saif

      RK from NY, Man i think you need a hug...

      January 24, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Reply
    • Sgt. Fury

      Fear not, rk. Me an my Howling Faggots will go and kill all the paks for you, and be home in time to tuck you in. Wa-hoooo!!!!!

      January 25, 2012 at 12:22 am | Reply

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