The Taliban now control more than half of Afghanistan and the number of NATO troops in the country needs to be doubled to cope with the resurgent Muslim group, according to a disputed report from the Senlis Council think tank.
A study by Senlis — an international organization with offices in Kabul, Afghanistan, and five other cities around the world — reportedly found that the Taliban, enriched by profits from the nation’s record poppy harvest, has formed de facto governments in large portions of Afghanistan.
“The security situation in Afghanistan has reached crisis proportions,” the report states.
“The Taliban's ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt; exclusive research undertaken by Senlis Afghanistan indicates that 54 percent of Afghanistan’s landmass hosts a permanent Taliban presence, primarily in southern Afghanistan, and is subject to frequent hostile activity by the insurgency.
“The Taliban are the de facto governing authority in significant portions of territory in the south and east, and are starting to control parts of the local economy and key infrastructure such as roads and energy supply. The insurgency also exercises a significant amount of psychological control, gaining more and more political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people who have a long history of shifting alliances and regime change.”
The Senlis Council has advocated that Afghan opium, which accounts for 93 percent of the world market, should be regulated and produced for medicinal purposes, according to The Independent newspaper in Britain.
The Afghan government and its NATO allies dispute Senlis’ findings, and assert that the claim the Taliban control 54 percent of the country is an exaggeration.
But the Senlis report coincides with findings from another organization, Oxfam International, which claimed Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis affecting millions and pointed out that American spending on aid in the country is only a small fraction of its military expenditures there.
The Senlis report notes that “collateral damage” — civilian casualties resulting from military actions — has alienated many in Afghanistan, and maintains that NATO forces there needed to be boosted from 40,000 to 80,000. It also urges NATO to invite Muslim nations to contribute to the Afghan force.
The “disturbing conclusion” of the Senlis report is that the country “is in grave danger of becoming a divided state,” said Norine MacDonald, president of the Senlis Council.
“Exploiting public frustration over poverty and inflammatory U.S.-led counter-narcotics policies, the Taliban are gaining increasing political legitimacy in the minds of the Afghan people.”
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