Taliban Resistance on the Rise in Afghanistan
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
The United States launched another attack against suspected Taliban insurgents in Southern Afghanistan last night. According to the U.S. military, five people were killed. Afghanistan is experiencing its most intense resurgence of violence since the U.S. overthrew the Taliban in late 2001.
NPR's Ivan Watson joins us from Kabul. Ivan, good morning.
IVAN WATSON reporting:
Good morning, Linda.
WERTHEIMER: Last night's operation is the latest in a series of attacks by U.S. forces against the Taliban, which have left nearly 300 people dead in the past week alone, including many civilians. What impact is this latest offensive having?
WATSON: Well, I think up here in Kabul, diplomats, Afghan politicians, military officers, both Afghan and foreign, are all alarmed by the intensity and the apparent sophistication of the Taliban's attacks in a number of a central and southern provinces. And they're all predicting a very bloody summer, more than you usually see in the fighting season. Summer is the fighting season here.
There have been a number of large-scale battles between Afghan government forces and their allied coalition troops and Taliban fighters. We're hearing a daily drumbeat of roadside bombs against these Afghan and coalition forces.
Earlier this week, five Canadians were wounded in Kandahar Province by a roadside bomb. The Afghan police were ambushed in Ghazni Province, south of Kabul. There was a suicide bomber in Kabul last week.
We're hearing about thousands of Afghan refugees who have fled the countryside to the city of Kandahar as a result of some of this intense fighting. And some of the aid workers are saying that they may have to leave the South because the situation has become so difficult.
Now the Taliban are not in a position to overthrow the government by any means, but they can incur serious casualties on both Afghan forces and on the coalition forces.
WERTHEIMER: What's behind this, do you think?
WATSON: It's not just one factor. Pakistan is blamed a lot by Afghan officials because there is some infiltration of militants and weapons across the border. There are also drug mafias that people think are involved because the heroin trade here is enormous.
But this is also due to other domestic reasons. First and foremost, I think many Afghans believe that more than four years after the fall of the Taliban, the internationally backed government of Hamed Karzai has done little to help them. In particular in the South I think there are large tribes, Pashtun tribes, that have alienated.
And there are big complaints from everybody, Afghan government officials admitted even, about corruption, about tribalism in this government, about nepotism. And this may be prompting locals to support the Taliban, who are saying that this is not a fair and just government. It doesn't respect Islamic traditions of Afghanistan and that may be pushing some people over to the other side.
WERTHEIMER: Ivan, NATO troops are coming into Afghanistan in early summer and will be operating with the U.S.-led coalition forces. Is it possible that the Taliban has ratcheted up activity in anticipation of NATO?
WATSON: Absolutely. NATO leaders are saying that that is what is happening. Europe was reluctant to send troops into these turbulent areas. It's taken about four years to do that. Now you have Canadians on the ground in the South and European troops are increasingly moving in.
Neither the Europeans or the Canadians are used to these kinds of casualties, and it's making big ripples back home. The top NATO civilian officer here says that the Taliban is trying to break the political will of these contributing countries.
WERTHEIMER: NPR's Ivan Watson speaking to us from Kabul in Afghanistan. Ivan, thank you.
WATSON: You're welcome, Linda.
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