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US military build-up in Kandahar will bolster Taliban, warns security monitor

Nato's counterinsurgency tactic shows no signs of success, says Afghanistan NGO Security Office
The Guardian
18 July 2010
Jon Boone in Kabul
The US military build-up in Kandahar is likely to further strengthen the hold of the Taliban over the vital southern Afghanistan city, a highly respected security organisation said today in a bleak report warning of record Taliban violence and rising civilian deaths across the country.
The report by the Afghanistan NGO Security Office, which monitors trends in violence on behalf of aid organisations, said Nato's counter-insurgency strategy was not showing any signs of succeeding amid rising violence, the unchecked establishment of local militias and a huge increase in attacks on private development workers across the country.
It revealed that June marked a record for Taliban attacks up 51% on the previous year to 1,319 operations.
At the same time the number of civilians killed by both sides of the conflict rose by 23%, despite the efforts of Nato forces to avoid killing innocent bystanders. The organisation also said attacks on private development organisations working on projects designed to win the support of ordinary Afghans had shot up, with more than 30 workers killed in the first three months of the year.
"We do not support the [counter-insurgency] perspective that this constitutes 'things getting worse before they get better', but rather see it as being consistent with the five-year trend of things just getting worse," the report said.
The report was published days before the world's foreign ministers gather in Kabul to discuss the international community's future role in Afghanistan.
Today a suicide bomber managed to evade Kabul's new "ring of steel" a series of police checkpoints designed to protect the city and killed three civilians in a busy market. Local police said the bomber was on foot and it was not clear what his intended target was.
Nato said it had intercepted a letter from Taliban leader Mullah Omar which ordered fighters to kill any Afghans working for foreign forces. A huge number of local nationals are employed as interpreters and logistics workers.
In southern Afghanistan, insurgents staged a jailbreak by smuggling a bomb inside a prison, allowing 11 inmates to escape in the province of Farah.
In Kandahar a roadside bomb exploded near the city's hospital, killing two police officers and a civilian. Nato also said that one of its soldiers from an unidentified country was killed by a roadside bomb.
With such bombings a near-daily occurrence in the south, the Anso report also reflected the grave doubts held by most Afghan experts that Nato's concentration of force in southern Afghanistan can possibly work.
It said the effort to dislodge the Taliban from Marjah, a former Taliban stronghold in Helmand, had failed to deliver security to local people, allow refugees to return to their homes or given credibility to the local government.
It was sceptical that the next stage of the operation, in and around Kandahar, would be any better. It said the operation was "very unlikely to be the 'breaking point' of the Taliban".
"It seems more likely to go the way of Operation Moshtarak, in Helmand, with lots of public ballyhoo around the actions of the IMF while the Afghan 'partners' discreetly pursue their own, often countervailing, agendas."
It added that the military buildup in Kandahar, which will see fighting take place in districts surrounding the city in the autumn, "will cause a significant rise in support for the armed opposition in Kandahar and, with that, make eventual Taliban ascendency feasible".
It also raised concerns about the increasing use of local people to defend their own villages a strategy that David Petraeus, the US commander of Nato forces in the country, is strongly in favour of expanding.
There were already cases of the so-called "militias" causing the same problems as the 1963 South Vietnamese Self Defence Corps, including partnering with insurgents to steal from the local population, the report said.
On Saturday Mark Sedwill, Nato's ambassador in Kabul, said the increase in violence this year had always been expected and it was a sign that the coalition was "taking the fight to the Taliban".
Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
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