Country Reports on Terrorism 2008 - Afghanistan

Afghanistan continued to confront the challenges of building a stable, democratic, and tolerant government in the face of an insurgency that more and more relied on vicious and increasingly sophisticated terrorist attacks by anti-Afghan forces on coalition forces, civilians, international NGOs, and other soft targets, most notably through improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and suicide bombings. Supported by the international community, the Afghan government has made suppression of such terrorist attacks and the establishment of effective law-enforcement mechanisms a high priority.

Reconciliation of members of the insurgency remained a priority, with the government undertaking a number of initiatives. Under the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) program, the follow-on to the earlier Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration (DDR) program, authorities have disbanded 362 illegal armed groups and collected over 42,000 weapons in 84 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. Forty-eight of the 84 targeted districts currently qualify for this assistance and are considered to be in compliance with DIAG disarmament regulations. DIAG operations expanded, intensifying efforts to build political will at the provincial and local levels to target the more threatening illegal armed groups.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led the coalition forces' counterinsurgency campaign, using a combination of 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 in conjunction with the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to fight extremism.

The Commander, U.S. Central Command, maintained command and control of U.S. counterterrorism forces operating in Afghanistan. Counterterrorism operations were coordinated with U.S. forces at Headquarters of U.S. Forces – Afghanistan (USFOR-A) and Combined Joint Task Force 101. Special Operations Forces conducting combined operations and foreign internal defense operated under the Commander, USFOR-A. United States CT forces target insurgent leaders, and insurgent training and logistics centers, with the objective of eliminating terrorists and facilitating reconstruction and development. The Afghan National Army (ANA), and to a lesser extent, the Afghan National Police (ANP), took the lead in the majority of counterterrorism operations, in close cooperation with coalition forces. In August, the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) assumed lead responsibility from coalition forces for Kabul City, and assumed the lead on the majority of security operations across the country. The insurgents, partly in response to their growing inability to confront coalition and ANSF forces in conventional encounters, increasingly resorted to terrorist tactics to intimidate ordinary Afghans. These tactics included greater use of IEDs along key travel arteries, assassination of lower-level Afghan government officials, and the use of suicide bombers and direct fire attacks against Afghan civilians.

Integrated civilian-military counterinsurgency approaches in the east have continued to yield some successes. Nonetheless, the anti-government insurgency remained a capable, determined, and resilient threat to stability and to the expansion of government authority, particularly in the south and east. The insurgency continued to suffer heavy combat losses, including among senior leaders, but its ability to obtain al-Qa'ida (AQ) support and recruit soldiers 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. To address this issue, a "mini-jirga" between Pakistani and Afghan officials and tribal leaders was held in October. The participants also discussed other ways to end terrorism along their border, including the possibility of holding talks with the Taliban insurgents – a proposal the Taliban subsequently rejected.

Insurgents continued to target police, police recruits, government ministers, parliamentarians, civil servants, and civilians, including urban crowds, in numerous violent incidents. Terrorists, often supported by criminal gangs, also increasingly turned to kidnapping Afghans and foreigners, most notably several reporters and at least one district governor were kidnapped. Most of these kidnappings were done for ransom, presumably as a means of raising money to support their operations.

Insurgents also targeted international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Afghan journalists, government workers, 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. Insurgents coupled threats and attacks against NGOs with continued targeting of Provincial Reconstruction Teams, de-mining teams, and construction crews working on roads and other infrastructure projects. The most notorious incident was an acid attack on female students outside of an all-girls school in Kandahar. That particular attack injured several students and resulted in the school being closed for a time, but the school has since re-opened.


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