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SeC 09-06-2006 11:38 PM


6 September 2006

AFGHANISTAN is falling back into the hands of the Taliban, according to an international security and drugs think-tank.

The hard-line Islamic group have psychological and military control over half the country, say the Senlis Council.

And the lawless Helmand province in the south, where British troops are concentrated, is under "limited or no central government control". Senlis blame military priorities and "flawed" poppy eradication policies for Afghanistan's plight.

The report says: "Having effectively assumed responsibility for the country in 2001, the United States-led international community have failed to achieve stability and security in Afghanistan."

It comes a day after the British Army's most senior officer warned his men were fighting at the limit of their capacity.

Chief of General Staff General Sir Richard Dannatt said the Army could only just cope with the demands being placed on it by the Government.

Helmand is a huge producer of opium, and one of the tasks of British troops is supporting Afghan counter-narcotics forces in tackling the illegal drugs trade.

But the report claims destroying poppy fields is perceived as an "anti-poor policy" and fuels violence and insecurity to the Taliban's advantage.

It says: "Poppy crop eradication has resulted in a wave of starvation among destitute farming families.

"In districts where control shifts daily between insurgents, international troops and the central government, forced eradication intensifies these power struggles."

The Senlis Council recommend making emergency poverty relief a top priority, overhauling "failed" anti-poppy strategies and insisting that military objectives take a back-seat to development in the country. line=rebels--control-half-of-afghanistan---name_page.html

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