Afghanistan struggled to build a stable, democratic, and tolerant government in the face of vicious attacks by the Taliban and related groups on Coalition Forces, civilians, international NGOs, and other soft targets, most notably through suicide bombings. Supported by the international community, the Afghan government has made suppression of terrorism and establishment of effective law-enforcement mechanisms a high priority. The Afghan government reached out to neighboring Pakistan through a Joint Peace Jirga to find ways to root out economic and social factors contributing to terrorism. Reconciliation of low- and mid-level insurgents remained a high priority, and the Program for Strengthening Peace and Reconciliation (PTS) has brought in over 5,000 Taliban and other insurgents who have wearied from the violence and lack of opportunity offered by extremism. The Government of Afghanistan was exploring additional efforts to strengthen and expand PTS reconciliation efforts.
The Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) program, the follow-on to the earlier Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program, has disbanded 161 illegal armed groups and collected almost 36,000 weapons in 62 districts since its inception in March 2005. In April 2007, in an effort to achieve greater local government support, DIAG began offering development assistance to qualifying districts. DIAG operations expanded, intensifying efforts to build political will at the provincial and local levels to target the more threatening illegal armed groups.
In 2006, the Combined Joint Task Force (then CJTF-76), which had led the Coalition Forces' campaigns against terrorism, turned this responsibility over to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The ISAF used a combination of effective counterinsurgency means and methods, including synchronized use of combat (air and ground forces) and non-combat means (building civil governance and aiding reconstruction and development) to fight terrorism, extremism, and attempts to undermine the constitutionally constituted government. The careful targeting of insurgent leaders and insurgent centers, and proactive operations against them, were aimed at eliminating terrorists and facilitating the flow of reconstruction and development. The increasingly professional and effective Afghan National Army (ANA), and to a lesser extent, the Afghan National Police (ANP), more often took the lead in counterterrorism operations and cooperated closely with the United States. In December, the ANA combined with UK and U.S. forces to retake the Taliban-held town of Musa Qala in southern Helmand Province.
New integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency approaches in the east, particularly Nangarhar, have begun to yield successes. Despite progress, the Taliban-led insurgency remained a capable, determined, and resilient threat to stability and to the expansion of government authority, particularly in the Pashtun south and east. The insurgency continued to suffer heavy combat losses, including senior leaders, but its ability to obtain AQ support and recruit soldiers from its core base of rural Pashtuns remained undiminished. Taliban information operations were increasingly aggressive and sophisticated.
Streams of Taliban financing from across the border in Pakistan, along with funds gained from narcotics trafficking and kidnapping, have allowed the insurgency to strengthen its military and technical capabilities. At a Joint Peace Jirga held in August, Pakistani President Musharraf acknowledged that support to the Afghanistan insurgency was being provided from within Pakistani territory.
The Taliban continued to target police, police recruits, government ministers, parliamentarians, civil servants, and civilians, including urban crowds, in numerous violent incidents. Having increased the use of improvised explosive devices, suicide bombings became both more numerous and more costly in terms of innocent lives lost. According to media reports of UN- compiled figures, terrorists launched approximately 140 suicide bombing attacks this year, inflicting large numbers of civilian casualties.
Terrorists, often supported by criminal gangs, have also increasingly turned to kidnapping foreigners, most notably the July abduction of South Korean missionary aid workers. This kidnapping was an attempt to extort ransom as well as to make a political point; the Taliban killed two hostages before releasing the remaining 21 after talks with the Afghan and South Korean governments.
Insurgents also targeted international NGOs, UN workers, and recipients of NGO assistance. They attacked teachers, pupils (especially girls), and schools. They also threatened and often brutally killed those who worked for religious tolerance, including ex-insurgents, tribal leaders, and moderate imams, mullahs, and religious scholars. The Taliban coupled threats and attacks against NGOs with continued targeting of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, de-mining teams, and construction crews on road and other infrastructure projects.