Like the past years, Afghanistan has been experiencing unabated security incidents since the beginning of 2008, making it another year of standstill of the Washington-led costly war on terror.
Soaring conflicts and Taliban-related insurgency have claimed the lives of more than 5,000 people, including some 2,000 civilians, so far this year despite the deployment of over 70,000-strong NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) andt he U.S.-led Coalition troops in Afghanistan.
Increasing civilian casualties, arrogant attitude of U.S troops toward Afghan people and government as well as the failing White House strategy have been put under heavy fire for the bogged situation.
SPIKING CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
"Winning the minds and hearts of Afghans is essential for winning the war on terror," said a war veteran and military analyst, General (Rrd) Noorul Haq Aloomi, warning that uncoordinated military operation which in many cases claimed non-combatants' lives has kept tarnishing the image of international troops and the reputation of the government.
Hundreds of civilians have been killed in such attacks over the past seven years and the latest bloodsheds were the killing of 91 people including women and children in Shind and district, west of Afghanistan, in August and that of 37 others in November when U.S. aircraft raided a wedding party in southern Kandahar province.
Noorul Haq, who is also the chief of Defense Committee of Lower House of Afghan parliament, criticized the U.S.-led alliance for carrying out military operations on their own intelligence reports without informing Afghan troops.
"If U.S. wants to win the war on terror, it has to develop a comprehensive strategy in coordination with Afghan government, avoid harming civilians and enhance the operational capacity of Afghan national security forces," he said.
Echoing Noorul Haq's voice, another Afghan analyst and human right activist Qasim Akhgar said: "the costly war against terrorism has failed to deliver and that is why the dispersed and defeated Taliban insurgents have regrouped and gradually changed to a threatening force."
EXPANDING TALIBAN INSURGENCE
As what Qasim has been worried about, Taliban this year extended their activities from the traditional hot-bed in the south and east regions towards the provinces of Logar and Wardak adjoining the capital city Kabul.
Attacks against security forces on their bases and highways have increased and according to FAO's country representative to Afghanistan Tekeste Tekie, there have been 25 attacks against commercial trucks taking humanitarian aid to needy Afghans since January 2008.
In last August, three female aid workers of International Rescue Committee was shot dead by Taliban militants in Logar province and last month another western aid worker was gunned down.
According to Afghan officials, despite some progress made in reconstruction and economy revival, security problem has also undermined the process of capital investment in Afghanistan as the foreign investment has dropped down by half from 1 billion U.S. dollars in 2007 to 500 million U.S. dollars in 2008.
Escalating security incidents and the administration's failure to prevent the menace have forced Afghan President Hamid Karzai to openly admit to the mess and call for international community to set a timeline for ending the war.
In recent talks with a facts-finding delegation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), Karzai even questioned the determination of the international community in war on terror.
"Afghans don't understand anymore, how can a little force like the Taliban can continue to exist, can continue to flourish, can continue to launch attacks with 40 countries in Afghanistan with entire NATO force in Afghanistan," said Karsai.
U.S. TWO-PRONGED STRATEGY
Mounting security pressure and rising casualties of international troops seemed have eased the opposition of Washington and its European alliance against dialogue with the Taliban insurgents.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in early October that "the United States would be prepared to reconcile with the Taliban if the Afghan government pursued talks to end the seven-year conflict in the country."
Pentagon has been clearly advocating for a two-pronged strategy: sending in more troops to Afghanistan and backing political engagement with Taliban.
Gates, who is going to remain at his position in President-elect Barrack Obama's government, said late November that Pentagonis considering a plan to send another 20,000 troops to Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months to help safeguard presidential elections and quell rising Taliban violence.
Obama, who is going to assume the top slot of U.S. in next January, voiced clear support over the plan, saying his new government wants to focus more on Afghan war and plans to persuade other nations to send more troops.
Analysts believe, with the unchanged U.S. strategy of long-term military buildup, the war-torn Afghanistan is set to be the battle-field for another year.