Taliban Making Gains in Northern Afghanistan

Back in December of 2009, Gilles Dorronsoro was raising the alarm bells about the possibility that if we poured troops in southern Afghanistan the Taliban would remain strong there and we’d miss the opportunity to keep them out of the north. Alissa Rubin’s article about Baghlan Province seems to vindicate that:

“The situation of Baghlan is very serious, and day by day it is getting worse and worse,” said Mohammed Rasool Mohsini, the chairman of the provincial council and a former commander.

Even 15 months ago Baghlan was not like this. It had a few trouble spots, according to Afghans and Americans working on development projects, but for the most part it seemed safe.

Afghan politicians, local leaders and local citizens all said they felt that the Afghan government, coalition forces and development groups had focused so intensively on the south, funneling tens of thousands of troops and billions of dollars to communities there, that they had missed the danger signs.

“Even two years ago the Taliban had a very small influence in Baghlan and we were telling the government, ‘If you don’t deal with their small activities, they will grow,’ ” Mr. Mohsini said.

Instead of focusing NATO attention and resources on the parts of Afghanistan where we were most welcome, we’ve been going hard at the areas where the Taliban has the most support. That’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy and we don’t seem to be reaping the rewards.