Violent bombings, kidnapping herald volatile 2008 for Afghanistan
By Yu Zhixiao
BEIJING, Feb. 22 (Xinhua) — Recent fierce bombing attacks and the kidnapping of the Pakistani ambassador herald a volatile and insurgent 2008 in war-torn Afghanistan, where Taliban militants are showing strong resurgence, analysts say.
Afghan security forces early Thursday captured 10 suspects involved in three recent bombings, which killed over 150 people and injured many others in the southern Kandahar province.
A suicide blast on Feb. 17 rocked a dog-fighting contest near Kandahar city, the provincial capital, and killed over 100 people, making it the bloodiest bombing attack since the Taliban regime’s collapse in late 2001.
Also in Kandahar province, a stronghold of Taliban rebels, a suicide bombing targeting a foreign vehicle patrol killed 37 civilians on Feb. 18, while a remote-control explosion claimed the life of one civilian and injured four others the following day.
No one has claimed responsibility for the first explosion, but officials blamed it on Taliban militants. But the Taliban only took responsibility for the second and third attacks.
On Feb. 11, Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddinwent missing in the Khyber tribal region bordering Afghanistan while on his way from the Pakistani city Peshawar to the Afghan capital Kabul.
“Pakistani Taliban” or “local Taliban” has claimed responsibility for the abduction, saying it intends to swap the ambassador for Mansoor Dadullah, a jailed ranking Taliban commander.
Escalating violence claimed over 6,000 lives in Afghanistan last year. Analysts predict that security is likely to continue to deteriorate this year, despite NATO and U.S. troops’ efforts to stabilize the situation.
TALIBAN REMAINS SERIOUS THREAT
The United States, which shifted its strategic focus from Afghanistan to Iraq soon after the Taliban regime’s fall, announced in January the deployment of an additional 3,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to curb the Taliban’s upcoming spring offensive.
Analysts view the move as an indication of Washington’s deep worries over its Afghan mission and the worsening situation in Afghanistan.
Some experts described it as a “mission impossible” for the 50,000-strong NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan to eliminate Taliban militants and put the entire country under their firm control in the coming years.
They base their observation on some major factors. Notably among them is a continuous supply of new recruits and funding. People, either driven by poverty or a strong belief in its ideology, have continued to join the ranks of Taliban.
Besides, the Taliban militants have resorted to opium planting and trafficking to reap huge profits and use them for arms purchase or as rewards for assaults. The well-funded and strongly-motivated Taliban militants have proved an formidable adversary for the Afghan government troops and police forces, which are limited in size and lack combat experience.
Another major factor is the rough terrain of Afghan mountain regions, which have undercut the superior mobility of NATO and U.S. troops and offered Taliban militants handy passages to neighboring Pakistan, making the region their safe haven in their guerrilla war against foreign and Afghan troops.
Analysts say there is still a long way to go before Afghan and foreign troops can totally wipe out Taliban militants. Some pessimists went so far as to say that a determined Taliban may even regain power some day.
Yet, observers generally believe that with far superior weapons and combat effectiveness, the NATO and U.S. troops will get the upper hand in battles with the Taliban. Statistics show about 4,000 Taliban militants were killed in Afghanistan in 2007, compared to some 200 foreign soldiers.
With these facts in view, analysts say the Taliban would pose a serious but not a fatal threat to the Afghan government and its Western allies in the coming years, say, one or two decades.