By Sheli DeNola

According to a recent UN report, 2007 was one of Afghanistan’s deadliest years since the war broke-out in 2001. The continuing military difficulties faced by U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan are partly the result of what has been regarded as a change in the nature of the Afghan insurgency.

“We saw a definitive shift in tactics,” said Gregg Sullivan, director of the Bureau of South & Central Asian Affairs at the U.S. State Department. “The Taliban forces resorted to a strategy far more akin to that of terrorists. Roadside bombs, suicide bombing, and kidnapping became their primary tactics.”

According to Sullivan, this tactical shift initiated by Taliban insurgents has been met with a change in NATO military strategy. Sullivan referred to this strategy as one of “steady expansion” in which diplomacy is used to ensure political ties. The strategy also focuses on initiating economic development and transferring security concerns to allied Afghan forces.

This shift reflects a growing U.S. and NATO emphasis on reconstruction and economic development in Afghanistan, but such efforts have faced great challenges thus far.

“The country was so destroyed that almost everything remains to be done,” said Kathleen Newland, director of the Migration Policy Institute. “The government is trying to setup industries and infrastructure. Outside of Kabul the situation is very complex. The Afghan government does not have a great deal of capacity.”

According to Akbar Ayazi of Radio Free Afghanistan, there is a direct link between quality of life for Afghan civilians and the strength of the Taliban insurgency.

“Not much has been done in the reconstruction,” Ayazi wrote in an e-mail. “People who are unhappy with the situation, if not joining the insurgency, at least somehow support them.”

Much of the humanitarian community is also concerned with the lack of successful reconstruction in Afghanistan and its negative effects on human rights issues in the country.

“We need to overhaul how we deal with Afghanistan. We need to totally review where all this military aid is going,” said Elsie DeLaere of Amnesty International Afghanistan. “We’ve got to come up with a more democratic government, even if we have to pressure the current regime. The people who have been abused do not forget.”