The Senlis Council , one of the few independent and rational bodies that publishes reports on Afghanistan has decided to become the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS)
They claim this reflects their continuing expansion of programmes and new research platforms in various zones of conflict. They also have a new website and have produced a a report today
Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance (pdf 40 pages).
They claim that the Taliban have rooted themselves itself across increasing swathes of Afghan territory. ICOS have been researching throughout 2008, and say that the Taliban now has a permanent presence in 72% of the country.. up from 54% in November 2007 as outlined in the ICOS (Senlis) report Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the Brink.
They also claim that the Taliban are the de facto governing power in a number of southern towns and villages. This illustrates the Taliban’s political, military and economic strategies are now more successful than the West’s in Afghanistan. Confident in their expansion beyond the rural south, the Taliban are at the gates of the capital and are now infiltrating the city at will.
Kabul is increasingly surrounded
There are four principal routes into / out of Kabul.
1. To the West, towards the Afghan National Ring Road through Wardak to Kandahar become unsafe for Afghan or international travel by the time travellers reach the entrance to Wardak province, which is about thirty minutes from the city limits.
2. To the South the road to Logar is no longer safe for Afghan or international travel.
3. To the east the road to Jalalabad is not safe for Afghan or international travel once travellers reach the Sarobi Junction which is about an hour outside of the city.
3. There are 2 northern routes ;
a) The road North towards the Bagram Air Base is frequently used by foreign and military convoys and subject to insurgent attacks.
b) The road North towards the Panjshir valley, Salang tunnel and Mazar – is considered safe for Afghan and international travel.
As the noose tightens around Kabul the Taliban have established bases close to the city from which to launch attacks inside it. Using these bases, the Taliban and insurgent attacks in Kabul have increased dramatically – including kidnapping of Afghans and foreigners, various bomb attacks and assassinations.
This dynamic has created a fertile environment for criminal activity, and the links between the Taliban and criminals are increasing and the lines between the various violent actors becoming blurred.
As this report is published the BBC report that the Taliban have attacked another depot in Peshawar and destroyed a further 50 vehicles in addition to the 100 destroyed at another depot on Sunday.
US Marines get ready to deploy to Afghanistan
Gen. James Conway, the Marine Corps commandant, is reported today by AP (Marines will shift to Afghanistan) that Marine units tentatively scheduled to go to Iraq next spring are already incorporating some training for Afghanistan into their preparations.
He said he has had discussions with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and believes the Pentagon chief "would not object to the idea of a fairly strategic shift of focus of Marines from Iraq to Afghanistan."
"I just see that people have, over time, understood we don't want to take over Afghanistan, such as was rumored when we first started talking about a shift of forces,"
Gen. David McKiernan, the commander of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, has said he needs up to 20,000 additional troops, including four combat brigades and thousands of support troops.
Conway said several Marine units will be moving into Iraq in January and February, and it is too late to redirect them to Afghanistan. Instead, he said another large turnover of units in Anbar around April could be shifted to Afghanistan if they are notified soon.
A DoD News Briefing with Maj. Gen. Tucker (Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations for ISAF, Deputy Commander for Operations, U.S. Forces ) from Afghanistan at the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, Va. on the 5th December makes interesting reading in view of the above.
Especially in relation to the need for helicopters.