Attacks Spark Fears of Taliban Defeating NATO In Afghanistan, the Taliban insurgency is spreading, even reaching some provinces in the north that had never been its strongholds. Last week, Taliban fighters attacked a district only 45 miles from Kabul. Afghans increasingly fear that NATO and Afghan forces will lose the war.
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Attacks Spark Fears of Taliban Defeating NATO

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Attacks Spark Fears of Taliban Defeating NATO

Attacks Spark Fears of Taliban Defeating NATO

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ROBERT SIEGEL, Host:

As NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports, Afghans increasingly fear that NATO and Afghan forces will lose the war.

(SOUNDBITE OF ROASTER CROWING)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Residents here say they are still loyal to Afghanistan's fledgling democracy, whatever their government's flaws maybe. But they are alarmed that their humble town of single-story mud homes is now only 12 miles from a new front in the war with the Taliban.

ABDUL KAYUM NADINI: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: U.N. Mission in Afghanistan spokesman Adrian Edwards.

ADRIAN EDWARDS: What's been happening rather quaintly and is only starting to be picked up on is that there are also significant problems in the southeast and the east of the country. The east of the country is closer to traditional, if you like, sort of roots by which a conflict would come into this country. So, yes, there is concern about that.

SARHADDI NELSON: That adds to Afghans' despair and a growing feeling that at least under Taliban rule, there was quiet.

SARHADDI NELSON: Qurban Ali Uruzgani is a senior member of the Shura or council in the southern province of Helmand.

QURBAN ALI URUZGANI: (Through translator) People aren't for the Taliban, but they need a strong and capable government. The situation has made them feel hopeless.

SARHADDI NELSON: The U.N.'s Edwards says Afghans aren't the only ones.

EDWARDS: It's a long struggle. I think, with hard work and certainly nobody at the moment is looking cheerful here in the next few months ahead.

SARHADDI NELSON: The Taliban on the other hand appears emboldened by its growing momentum. One southern Taliban commander, Ibrahim Hannifi, agreed to be interviewed by phone.

IBRAHIM HANIFI: (Through translator) We receive messages from time to time from our leader, Mullah Omar, telling us to be patient and wait for the reestablishment of the regime that will spread Islam throughout the world. It may take some time, maybe five or 10 years. But we will finally retake Afghanistan.

SARHADDI NELSON: Wahid Mujda, a former Taliban official, says the insurgents' immediate goal is more simple: make Afghans frightened and angry enough to reject Karzai's government and its NATO allies. A new twist on an old tactic Afghans used to oust the Soviets and the British from their country years ago.

WAHID MUJDA: (Through translator) There aren't enough NATO forces to have them everywhere at the same time. So what the Taliban is doing is capturing a district. Then when NATO and Afghan forces go to take it back, the Taliban captures another district. Their strategy is to prolong this tiring war in Afghanistan and cause friction between America and Europe.

SARHADDI NELSON: But U.S. General Dan McNeil, the commander of Western forces in Afghanistan, says Taliban leaders are mistaken if they think the West will give up that easily. He says NATO forces have already started to take stronger action such as when the soldiers recently recaptured a district in Helmand province from the Taliban. He hints that more action in the Taliban's stronghold is on the way.

DAN MCNEIL: I am well aware that people believe the insurgency could spread. I just happen to know a little bit about counterinsurgency, and I can tell you there are no silver bullets, there are no quick fixes. It simply doesn't happen overnight.

SARHADDI NELSON: But lawmaker Jalal Adeen Halal(ph), who serves on the Afghan parliament's defense committee, says NATO is not doing enough to turn the tide.

JALAL ADEEN HALAL, Host:

(Through translator) The international community has failed in this fight because they don't have enough specific policy for this war, nor do they coordinate enough with the Afghan government. We should not think this Taliban crisis would only affect Afghan people. Remember that the Taliban hosted al-Qaida and what that group did beyond our borders.

SARHADDI NELSON: Back in Najab, teacher Nadini shares Jalal's pessimistic outlook.

KAYUM NADINI: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Kabul.

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