In Afghanistan, Taliban Control the Countryside

As Obama mulls more troops, NATO gaps give insurgents free rein
By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 22, 2009 6:47 AM CST
An Italian soldier, left, with the International Security Assistant Force walks near the scene of a suicide attack in Gozara district of Herat province west of Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 21, 2009.    (AP Photo/Fraidoon Pooyaa)
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(Newser) – Barack Obama has signaled that he will send 20,000 to 30,000 new American troops to join NATO forces in Afghanistan. It certainly won't hurt, reports Dexter Filkins in the New York Times. Troops are stretched so thin that, more than 7 years after the initial invasion, the Taliban control entire provinces in all parts of the country—not to mention the 550-mile border with Pakistan.

While American-led forces control the big cities and highways, the Taliban are unrivaled in the countryside—where the opium trade provides the group with about $300 million a year. Commanders say that NATO and the Taliban are at a "stalemate," but there's no guarantee that an Iraq-style surge will make a difference. As one lieutenant said, the greatest problem is obtaining information from the local population: "Everybody knows something, but no one tells us anything."