Record drug harvests, a weak government, a flagging economy and mounting civilian deaths are stoking support for Islamic militants in Afghanistan. To reverse the current trend, President Hamid Karzai's administration, along with its foreign supporters, must do a better job in delivering basic social services on the grassroots level, experts and politicians say.
Underscoring the escalating mayhem in Afghanistan, a suicide bombing on November 6 in Baghlan Province killed or wounded upwards of 100 people, according to local reports. Among the dead were at least five members of parliament who had travelled to the region to tour a sugar factory. It is one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in Afghanistan since a US-led coalition forced the radical Islamic Taliban government from power in Kabul in late 2001.
More than 5,000 people have died so far this year, mainly militants, but including possibly hundreds accidentally killed in air strikes carried out by the US military and by the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
And as the Taliban and affiliated rebel groups return to traditional guerrilla warfare after last year's failed bid to take on foreign and Afghan troops in conventional pitched battles, the fighting is spreading to areas once considered relatively safe, including regions such as Baghlan Province north of the capital, Kabul.
"This year, you haven't seen the standing battles
Terry Friel is a freelance reporter who specializes in Caucasus and Central Asian affairs.