Washington, June 28 : The Pentagon has in its latest report warned of escalating violence in Afghanistan after the escape of about 900 inmates and suspected Taliban insurgents from a prison in Kandahar two weeks ago.
According to a Washington Post report, the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters have proved to be resilient and aggressive foes against NATO coalition forces.
Citing a weak Afghan government, a struggling economy, massive increases in illegal narcotics production, corruption, growing attacks by insurgents and an increase in civilian casualties as factors that could contribute to this increased violence, Pentagon officials said incremental progress in Afghanistan contrasts with significant challenges ahead.
The 72-page report, which reviews the war from 2001 through April 10, 2008, offers a bleak assessment of a conflict that commanders think requires more resources and attention.
"Despite many positive developments, Afghanistan continues to face challenges. The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency. It now poses a challenge to the Afghan government's authority in some rural areas. . . . The Taliban is likely to maintain or even increase the scope and pace of its terrorist attacks and bombings in 2008," the Pentagon report warns
But the report makes clear that the Taliban is not the only concern for U.S. officials, and predicts the possibility of "two distinct insurgencies" emerging in Afghanistan this year, one dominated by the Taliban in the south and a "more complex, adaptive insurgency" in the east, where extremists affiliated with several groups have increased their efforts against U.S. troops and other coalition partners.
Both groups have been cooperating against coalition forces, defense officials told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday.
"The success of Afghan and international forces in military engagements has led insurgents to increase asymmetric attacks," the report said.
A senior defense official said that such attacks increased more than 40 percent in the eastern part of the country during the first half of this year, compared with the first half of 2007.
Attacks in Afghanistan have shown a dramatic upturn in recent weeks, appearing to validate the findings in the report, the first of its kind regarding the country.
The Pentagon is required by law to provide Congress with such an assessment every six months; the period covered by the next report ends in October.
Yesterday's assessment indicated that the greatest challenge to long-term security in Afghanistan is the insurgent sanctuary in Pakistan's tribal areas along the 1,500-mile-long border with Afghanistan.
U.S. officials think that the tribal areas are fueling cross-border insurgent attacks and that Pakistan's cease-fire agreements with some groups in those areas are worsening security conditions.