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Week of 3.2.07

Afghanistan Now

Nearly six years after the U.S. first attacked Afghanistan, the country still faces tremendous hurdles to rebuild, create a democracy, and avoid further violence.

Poppy fields for the opium trade have reappeared as a leading economic force, accounting for well over a third of the country's GDP. Land mines and other explosives are pervasive, and much of the land is infertile and uninhabitable.

But most devastating to human lives as well as to democracy is the resurgence of the Taliban. Approximately 140 attacks were carried out by Taliban-led militants in 2006, making it the bloodiest year of fighting since 2001. And insurgent attacks are up 300 percent since September.

On February 4, 2007, the Taliban warned that this would be the bloodiest year yet for foreign troops in Afghanistan. Just over three weeks later, a suicide bomber attacked Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. The attack is speculated to be an assassination attempt on Vice President Cheney, who was visiting the base at the time. International forces are preparing for a Taliban "spring insurgency" that may have already begun.

As of March 1, 367 U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom, according to The Washington Post.

Factors contributing to the strengthened insurgency include: ineffective Afghan security forces, unemployment and dismal conditions on the ground encouraging many Afghans to join militias, and border attacks from nearby Pakistan.

The Bush Administration says it is committed to Afghanistan, citing a recent pledge of $10.6 billion in aid, as well as extended tours and increased U.S. troops. Several countries, including the U.K., Norway, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, have also increased forces.

Afghan citizens' views differ about the effectiveness and even the aim of U.S.-led efforts. Read the controversial opinions of the youngest member of the Afghan parliament, who blames the Taliban, local warlords, the United States, and even her government body for her country's dire predicament.

NOW Interview with Malalai Joya

Afghanistan-Related Links:

Online NewsHour: Comprehensive Afghanistan Timeline

Foreign Affairs: Saving Afghanistan

Senate Armed Services Committee: Annual Threat Assessment of the Director of National Intelligence

Council on Foreign Relations: Taliban Plans Own 'Surge'