The Year of the Taliban

Just recently, Taliban fighters drove a car filled with explosives up to Sarposa prison, the largest detention facility in Kandahar. They were able to free hundreds of their prisoners who can now return to fighting Afghan and NATO troops.

In April, during the Mujahedin Day military parade, a celebration of the expulsion of Soviet forces in 1989, Taliban fighters penetrated a heavy security area and attacked with machine guns and heavy weapons. The bullets hit Afghan parliamentarians within 30 yards of President Hamid Karzai.

There is no question that more than six years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban have been getting stronger day by day. Now midway into 2008, all indications lead us to believe that the balance seems to be tilting in their favor. It all started on January 14 of this year, when the Taliban conducted a daring attack on one of Kabul's best-protected landmarks in the Afghan capital, the Serena Hotel, a luxury hotel frequented by Westerners. At the time, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said that they decided to attack the high security 5-star hotel to show "foreigners that the Taliban hand and might can reach anywhere."

Despite the presence of more than 50,000 troops of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), the Taliban has taken back control of vast rural areas since the beginning of 2008 and now has a foothold just outside Kabul. Their recent brazen attacks have raised questions about the effectiveness of the War on Terror in Afghanistan and whether any place in the country is safe from the Islamist movement that the war was originally intended to eradicate.

For the past several weeks, I've been monitoring (mostly on foreign media) a number of ground assaults and rocket attacks by the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. About 100 Taliban insurgents attacked the towns of Gomal and Sarobi in Paktika province. They were able to capture entire districts and in Wardak province have even taken Afghan soldiers captive. Just a couple of days ago, the Taliban attacked a convoy of about 40 trucks on the main highway southwest of the capital Kabul in order to disrupt supplies for foreign troops. Despite counter attacks by ISAF, it seems that the Taliban can operate freely in most of the Helmand province and have acquired strategic depth in the provinces of Kunar, Nooristan and Khost.

Meanwhile, the Afghan government blames neighboring Pakistan for failing to prevent insurgents active in the tribal areas there from entering into Afghanistan. These charges have been totally rejected by Islamabad. Afghan President Hamid Karzai also blasted the British, saying that their efforts in southern Afghanistan's lawless Helmand province have made things worse. U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has criticized the NATO troops as well, saying they don't know how to fight insurgents. However, most Afghans put the blame on Karzai's government for widespread corruption and incompetency.

The truth of the matter is, everyone is correct in this blame game; add to it, the allies' failure to control the thriving opium trade which has been used to finance the Taliban, the ISAF's lack of clear strategy for defeating the Taliban, and most importantly the ineptitude of Hamid Karzai.

Jamal Dajani produces the Mosaic Intelligence Report on Link TV.