Report: Taliban now encircle Kabul
John Byrne
Published: Monday December 8, 2008

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Taliban now have presence in 3/4 of country

The Taliban now have a presence in nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan, and are beginning to encircle its capital, Kabul, according to a new thinktank report.

According to the report, the Taliban hold a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan, though Hamid Karzai's Afghan government says the figures "aren't credible."

The Paris-based International Council on Security and Development, which has offices in Afghanistan, says that Taliban fighters have advanced from the south of the country and now carry out regular attacks in the west and northwest.

In many places in the south, they hold power normally associated with a government, the Council says.

"While the international community's prospects in Afghanistan have never been bleaker, the Taliban has been experiencing a renaissance that has gained momentum since 2005," the report said. "The West is in genuine danger of losing Afghanistan."

President-elect Barack Obama says he'll deploy tens of thousands of troops to the war-riddled country, which served as one of the US-Soviet battlegrounds during the cold war. America has had a troubled history in the poor, mountainous nation, where they once supported Osama Bin Laden against the Russians.

Currently, the US has 34,000 boots on the ground. The Pentagon plans 20,000 replacement troops for 2009.

While the Taliban were in power, Afghanistan's poppy crop -- which is used to make heroin -- was effectively wiped out. The country now supplies most of Europe's opium.