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New Threat to Afghan Security

Prepared by: Esther Pan
February 13, 2006

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Suicide bombings are on the rise in Afghanistan (RFE/RL), raising fears that Afghan militants are increasingly using techniques of the Iraqi insurgency (Newsday). A series of suicide bombings through January left more than thirty people dead and dozens wounded (WashPost). Afghan officials say recent arrests show the attacks may have been organized by Taliban members in Pakistan (NYT). Two particularly deadly attacks on January 15 came just after President Hamid Karzai expressed concern over the rise in such attacks (VOA), saying they are meant to disrupt life and cause insecurity in society. Radio Free Europe offers a timeline of suicide bombings in Afghanistan since 2001, and cfr.org asks if Afghanistan is a terror haven.

The tactic, explained in this CFR Background Q&A, could signal a change in the security dynamic in the country. Currently, some 8,000 NATO International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops are conducting peacekeeping and reconstruction activities. NATO will increase ISAF to some 16,000 troops later this year, even as U.S. officials plan to reduce the American force in Afghanistan—about 19,000 right now—by 3,000 troops. Phillip Gordon of Brookings writes in the International Herald Tribune the West should support NATO’s “remarkable and so far mostly successful” deployment in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, the Afghan army and police will have to deal with the increase in violence. The Afghan national army, now some 35,000 troops, is halfway to its goal of 70,000 (CSMonitor). Christopher Langton of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies told cfr.org in an interview last summer that the army's training is progressing more quickly, and having better results, than that of the police. At a November 2005 CFR meeting on the challenges of reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq, Afghanistan’s UN representative Ravan Farhadi said that, despite the progress in training, Afghanistan will rely on foreign troops for at least another five years. A GAO report says military training is progressing, but future goals need to be clearer, while another GAO report says declining security is hampering reconstruction. The international community renewed its pledges to Afghanistan at a London conference in January, fulfilling some of the goals of the Afghan government's development plan, the Afghan Compact. Such efforts are supported by the public, who in a January 2006 poll by World Public Opinion.org, showed most Afghans overwhelmingly reject al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

These CFR Background Q&As examine the September 2005 parliamentary elections and post-election security in Afghanistan. The Center for Defense Information provides a timeline of major recent events in Afghanistan.

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