Even as more American troops flow into the country, Afghanistan is more dangerous than it has ever been during this war, with security deteriorating in recent months, according to international organizations and humanitarian groups.
Large parts of the country that were once completely safe, like most of the northern provinces, now have a substantial Taliban presence — even in areas where there are few Pashtuns, who previously were the Taliban’s only supporters. As NATO forces poured in and shifted to the south to battle the Taliban in their stronghold, the Taliban responded with a surge of their own, greatly increasing their activities in the north and parts of the east.
The worsening security comes as the Obama administration is under increasing pressure to show results to maintain public support for the war, and raises serious concerns about whether the country can hold legitimate nationwide elections for Parliament next Saturday.
Unarmed government employees can no longer travel safely in 30 percent of the country’s 368 districts, according to published United Nations estimates, and there are districts deemed too dangerous to visit in all but one of the country’s 34 provinces.
The number of insurgent attacks has increased significantly; in August 2009, insurgents carried out 630 attacks. This August, they initiated at least 1,353, according to the Afghan N.G.O. Safety Office, an independent organization financed by Western governments and agencies to monitor safety for aid workers.
An attack on a Western medical team in northern Afghanistan in early August, which killed 10 people, was the largest massacre in years of aid workers in Afghanistan.
“The humanitarian space is shrinking day by day,” said a CARE Afghanistan official, Abdul Kebar.
The International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, does not routinely release detailed data on attacks around the country, and the Afghan government stopped doing so in mid-2009. United Nations officials have also stopped releasing details of attacks, though they monitor them closely. Requests for access to that information were denied.