Attacks in Afghanistan 'up 39%'
The monthly average of armed clashes, roadside bombings and other violence in Afghanistan is running 39% ahead of last year's figure, the UN has reported, with more complex suicide operations involving multiple bombers and gunmen.
The statistics show that the intensity of the nearly decade-old war is growing, not abating, as the US and other nations start to withdraw some forces with an eye towards pulling out all combat troops by the end of 2014.
The Taliban's resilience raises questions about whether the Afghan government and its Western allies have a solid grip on security - and whether the Afghan forces can ever secure the nation by themselves.
Nato says it has made progress in taming the Taliban insurgency by routing its strongholds in the south. But the Taliban have hit back with several high-profile attacks in the capital and assassinations of government officials and senior Afghan leaders.
In its quarterly report on Afghanistan, the UN said that as of the end of August, the average monthly number of incidents stood at 2,108, up 39% over the same period a year earlier. It did not provide comparable data. The figures include insurgent attacks as well as assaults by Nato and Afghan forces on Taliban figures and positions.
"Armed clashes and improvised explosive devices continued to constitute the majority of incidents," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his report. "The south and south-east of the country, particularly around the city of Kandahar, continued to be the focus of military activity and accounted for approximately two-thirds of the total security incidents."
The US-led coalition said it disputes the UN figures and plans to hold a news conference on Thursday to release its own statistics related to overall violence trends in Afghanistan.
Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban insurgency, was where most of the 33,000 additional US troops that President Barack Obama sent to Afghanistan were deployed. The extra US and other Nato forces succeeded in routing insurgents from their stronghold and now are trying to hold those areas in the south.
The militants, however, have opened new fronts in the north and west and have stepped up attacks in the east, including ones inside the heavily secured capital, Kabul.
According to the UN report, while the number of suicide attacks remained steady, insurgents conducted more suicide operations involving multiple bombers and gunmen. It said that on average, three complex attacks have been carried out each month from January to August - a 50% increase compared with the same period last year.