Afghanistan Report

ReportReport Press Releases

Taliban now holds a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan; Up from 54% a year ago, according to new report

8 December 2008

Taliban now holds a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan; Up from 54% a year ago, according to new report by The International Council on Security and Development (ICOS)

Taliban is closing a noose around Kabul: Three out of four main highways into the capital city now compromised by Taliban

ICOS calls for new Security Architecture in Afghanistan

LONDON – The Taliban now holds a permanent presence in 72% of Afghanistan, up from 54% a year ago, according to a report released today by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS), an international policy think tank.

According to ICOS, Taliban forces have advanced from their southern heartlands, where they are now the de facto governing power in a number of towns and villages, to Afghanistan’s western and north-western provinces, as well as provinces north of Kabul. Within a year, the Taliban’s permanent presence in the country has increased by a startling 18%, according to ICOS research on the ground in Afghanistan.

The new ICOS report also documents the advance of the Taliban on Kabul, where three out of the four main highways into Kabul are now compromised by Taliban activity. The capital city has plummeted to minimum levels of control, with the Taliban and other criminal elements infiltrating the city at will.

“The Taliban are now controlling the political and military dynamic in Afghanistan,”. said Norine MacDonald QC, President and Lead Field Researcher of ICOS.

“Despite increasingly dire levels of security in Afghanistan in recent months, there has been surprisingly little change in response from the international community,” MacDonald said. “The insurgency continues to turn NATO’s weaknesses into its own strengths.”

“The Taliban are closing a noose around Kabul, and there is a real danger that the Taliban will simply overrun Afghanistan under the noses of NATO,” said Paul Burton, Director of Policy for ICOS.

Through its research platform in Afghanistan, ICOS determined the Taliban’s presence across the country using a combination of publicly recorded attacks and local perceptions of Taliban presence. One or more insurgent attacks per week in a province constitutes a “permanent Taliban presence” according to ICOS (See full methodology below).

ICOS Calls For A New Security Architecture for Afghanistan

“The current global security architecture is ill-equipped to deal with the problems that beset Afghanistan,” said MacDonald. “Quite simply, the current rulebook on how the International Community approaches these crises needs to be rewritten if we are to succeed in Afghanistan and in other conflict zones such as Iraq and Somalia.”

“Classic security instruments such as military intervention and intelligence must continue to be fully supported,” said MacDonald. “But other elements such as sustainable job creation and development should also be seen as key security instruments, along with the development of the rule of law, effective counter-narcotics policies, literacy, a free and open media and civil society and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.”

In the report, ICOS makes specific recommendations for how the international community can succeed in Afghanistan.

ICOS says it is time to focus on providing ordinary Afghans with the basic necessities of life.

“It is simply unacceptable that, seven years after entering the country, the international community has not established mechanisms to ensure that every Afghan has access to food and water,” ICOS says in the report.

“Development and reconstruction efforts have been underfunded, have failed to have a significant impact on local communities’ living conditions, and have failed to improve attitudes towards the Afghan Government and the international community,” said Burton.

In the report, ICOS recommends that the international community must shift from the concept that one leader or organisation has responsibility for resolving Afghanistan. The longevity of a plan for Afghanistan should not be contingent upon the US electoral cycle and it is wrong for any actor to simply wait for President-elect Obama’s Afghan plan. ICOS says this abrogation of responsibility is letting the common goal of securing Afghanistan drift out of reach.

ICOS recommends a closer collaboration between military and development efforts. The military should now be tasked to deliver aid to ravaged areas of the south and east, which ICOS says will be crucial in responding to the immediate needs of poor and vulnerable Afghans. The report also reiterates ICOS’ call for NATO to double its force in the country to 80,000.

Taliban Presence Methodology:

Data detailing the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan was gathered from daily insurgent activity reports between January and November 2008 as well as interviews conducted by the ICOS research team. The surveys measured local perceptions of the Taliban’s presence by measuring frequency of Taliban sightings.

A “permanent presence” is defined by provinces that average one (or more) insurgent attack (lethal and non-lethal) per week. Areas with “substantial presence” average one or more insurgent attacks per month and include residents who believe Taliban are active locally (based on frequency of Taliban sightings). Areas with “light presence” have fewer than one insurgent attack per month and local residents don’t believe Taliban are active locally (based on frequency of Taliban sightings). To calculate percentages, the total area of Afghanistan was divided by the total area hosting a permanent/substantial/light Taliban presence.

email hidden; JavaScript is required