Afghanistan War: Taliban Escalates Violence with Kandahar Blasts

Article excerpt

The Taliban appear to be making good on a promise to escalate violence in Kandahar, where NATO is planning to launch what it sees as the next major offensive of the Afghanistan war.

Three explosions rocked Kandahar on Monday morning as the city slid deeper into violence. The southern Afghan city is where NATO is planning to launch what it sees as the next major offensive of the Afghanistan war.

The blasts, two of which apparently targeted Kandahar's deputy police chief, killed two civilians and prompted the United Nations to say it was scaling back operations there. The aid community already has a far lighter footprint there than in other parts of Afghanistan.

Residents sound increasingly fatalistic about their prospects this summer, with the Taliban apparently making good on a promise to escalate violence in the city in response to NATO's plans to restore central government authority to a city that, in as much as it is controlled by anyone, is in the hands of a murky nexus of local powerbrokers and gangsters.

Alex Strick van Linschoten, a Dutch researcher who is one of only a handful of Europeans in Kandahar, reported on his blog that a businessman had predicted that Afghanistan's second largest city faced destruction.

"The storm is coming," the businessman said. "I try telling people, but it seems they're all just making themselves busy with fixing the leaky roof or the squeaky door. The storm will destroy their entire house and city, though. The storm is coming. You have two options: Get out now, or climb down into your bunker and hope that the storm will pass and that you're still alive six months from now."

Attacks target police

According to a tally compiled by Sami Kovanen, a senior analyst with Indicium Consulting in Kabul, 99 people were killed in 150 violent incidents in Kandahar City between the start of January and April 18, not including insurgents. The dead included aid workers, private contractors, mullahs, tribal elders, secret policemen, foreign soldiers, and civilians, who bore the highest toll. …