Which explosives are the deadliest

New explosives in the world's most dangerous border area

A large number of small and large wars are raging along the Afghan-Pakistani border. The Taliban are operating more and more impudently.

Vienna / KABUL. Apparently only one spark is missing - and the entire Afghan-Pakistani border area is ablaze. On both sides of the border more and more explosives are piling up and more and more blood is flowing. With the various wars, big and small, that are being waged, it is difficult to keep track of things.

On the Pakistani side, radical Islamic tribal militias allied with the terrorist organizations al Qaeda and the Taliban are fighting against pro-government tribes as well as against government troops. On the Afghan side, the Taliban are attacking the Afghan government troops, the NATO-led International Afghanistan Protection Force (ISAF) and the US special forces who are hunting down terrorists here. The Afghan and US governments, on the other hand, are becoming increasingly impatient with the leadership in Islamabad because they are doing too little to smoke out the Taliban's retreat and quiet rooms in the Pakistani tribal areas. They are now thinking out loud about doing this for themselves.

The fact is: The Taliban have clearly grown in strength and are making things more and more difficult for NATO soldiers and Afghan government troops in eastern and southern Afghanistan. The Taliban's attacks in eastern Afghanistan have increased by 40 percent this year compared to the previous year, the commander of NATO troops in the region, Jeffrey Schloesser, raised the alarm this week. The Taliban's most spectacular coup was the storming of Kandahar prison on June 13 and the liberation of 1,000 prisoners, including 400 imprisoned Taliban.

Reasons for the new strength

But where does the insurgents' new strength come from? Experts make several points:

• The Taliban have changed their tactics. Instead of challenging the militarily superior NATO troops “on the battlefield”, they resort to terrorist methods of combat that were tried and tested in the Iraq war: above all, suicide bombings and booby traps.

• Military operations by NATO troops, in which Afghan civilians are also killed (“collateral damage”), increase the Taliban's popularity among the population. Of course, it is precisely their new terrorist tactics, which also claim many civilian victims, that could alienate the Taliban from the Afghan population in the long term and thus weaken their position as guerrilla fighters - see the example of Iraq again.

• Poverty, unemployment, lawlessness and unrestrained corruption by the Afghan authorities are grist to the Taliban's mill. According to the UN, they in turn make $ 100 million in profits from drug cultivation every year and thus have a full war chest to buy weapons and to bribe corrupt officials in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

• According to NATO, the conflict settlement that the new government in Islamabad has reached with extremist groups in the tribal areas is one of the main reasons why the Taliban are now operating all the more intensively in Afghanistan. Islamabad justifies these agreements by stating that they have reduced the number of suicide bombings in their own country (over 1000 Pakistani had died in such attacks since mid-2007).

However, the Taliban and militant tribes could soon turn their weapons against the Pakistani security forces again. Recently there were reports that the important city of Peshawar was surrounded by Islamist fighters. So there could be a situation where the Pakistani government will still be happy if NATO and Afghan soldiers support you in the fight against Islamist insurgents in the tribal areas. Drugs page 8

("Die Presse", print edition, June 27, 2008)