Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Unwelcome Resurgence

The Taliban has tried and failed to kill the US Vice President Dick Cheney during his visit to Afghanistan. They were never realistically going to actually assassinate him - the sprawling complex of Bagram Airbase is far too big and too well guarded to get near him - but it's quite a statement of intent. By even attempting this sort of spectacular, the Taliban has proved just how strong their much-talked about resurgence actually is.

Five years ago what was left of the Taliban melted into the Afghan countryside and mountains, heavily beaten by the US-backed Northern Alliance. Ever since it has slowly regained its strength, and if the British-led NATO forces were to leave now, the Taliban would be well placed to take large parts of the country back under its control.

That won't happen. But NATO is struggling with a lack of manpower, caused by an unwillingness of some major countries to commit troops to the really dangerous parts of Afghanistan. That's what forced Britain to announce an extra deployment this week. And if the increasingly confident Taliban is to be kept down, it's now up to Germany, Italy and the rest to step forward.

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