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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

Seasonal fighters

Monday, January 31, 2011

In Afghanistan, less snow coincides with uptick in violence this winter
By Joshua Partlow Washington

KABUL - The first snow of the winter that fell in Kabul this week was a welcome dusting for the war planners at NATO headquarters.

The level of violence across the country has so far been higher than in previous winters, a phenomenon U.S. military officials attribute at least in part to unseasonably warm weather. At one morning briefing this week, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, was shown aerial photographs of the lack of snow on the country's rugged mountains, which has allowed Taliban fighters more freedom of movement than usual for the season, according to a U.S. military official.

U.S. military officials often explain violence in terms of a counterinsurgency, or COIN, "curve." The idea is that violence rises as new troops pursue the Taliban in a given area but that this does not necessarily signify a worsening situation. It could mean the troops are pursuing insurgents in areas where they have found sanctuary in the past, forcing them to fight.

Then at some point, the theory goes, the curve breaks and heads downward. If all goes well, after some lag time this is followed by improvements in governance and Afghans' perception of the situation. Petraeus's office uses a graph of such a process to explain events in Nawa, the pacified district of the southern province of Helmand that Petraeus calls a "proof of COIN concept."

Compared with last summer, "the numbers of attacks right now are markedly down," said one senior NATO official. "We're in 2011 now. We'll see higher numbers overall than we did last year, month to month, day to day, throughout. Whether or not it dips off and we break that nexus sometime in 2011 remains to be seen, but we're not predicting that.
posted by Travis, 5:21 pm

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