02/18/2008, 00.00
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Kandahār massacre making ‘political solution’ in Afghanistan more urgent

Yesterday’s suicide bombing in southern Afghanistan kills more than 100 people. Analysts say it is urgent to open a dialogue with ‘moderate’ Taliban and find better ways to rebuild the country and co-ordinate international missions.

Kabul (AsiaNews) – Funerals were held today for the victims of yesterday’s suicide attack that claimed the lives of more than a 100 people in Kandahār, southern Afghanistan. The bombing was the bloodiest since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, but no one has yet claimed responsibility for the slaughter. Blame has been pinned on the Taliban, the ‘Qur’anic students’ who are strong in this area of the country, and al-Qaeda, but the Taliban have denied any involvement.

What is certain is that yesterday’s incident has done nothing to reduce tensions within NATO.

The suicide bomber targeted a crowd that had gathered to watch a dog fight. But the real target was Abdul Hakim Jan, a powerful tribal leader who was a pro-government militia leader opposed to the Taliban.

Kandahār's Governor Assadullah Khalid said today that the death toll had risen to more than 100, and more than 100 people had been injured.

Last year was the deadliest since the fall of the Taliban: 7,000 dead, including 1,400 civilians and 232 NATO soldiers.

According to a recent report by the Senlis Council, the Taliban control 54 per cent of the territory and are active in another 38 per cent.

This yeas Afghanistan will remain the first producer of opium in the world according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

In light of yesterday’s bloody massacre, more and more Afghanistan experts believe that the anti-Taliban war effort must be accompanied by a greater political drive to open a dialogue with “moderate Taliban” and isolate their more extremist fringes.

At the same time, reconstruction plans should be better co-ordinated with blocks of countries involved in given sectors like education, health care, housing across the country rather than leaving entire regions onto themselves.

At present a 42,000 strong, NATO-led multinational security and development mission, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), is operating in the country. Set up under a United Nations mandate to stabilise Afghanistan, it exists side by side Enduring freedom, a 12,000 strong, mostly United States-led mission designed to defeat the Taliban militarily. But the two operations need to be better co-ordinated, perhaps unified.

Increasing Taliban attacks have frustrated many of the countries operating on the ground. The United States and others (allies Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands and Poland) are increasingly unhappy about those allies like Italy, France, Germany and Spain which are officially unwilling to take on a combat role. In the meantime NATO’s troop requirements are short by almost 4,000 men.

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