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Taliban's Summer Advances Spark Policy Questions

30 July 2014 

A series of major offensive efforts by the Taliban this summer has left Afghan security officials anxious and open to criticism, while experts have maintained it is largely incoherent defense policy being set by the government that is to blame. 

The summer months are commonly known as the "fighting season" in Afghanistan, when weather conditions make carrying out attacks easier for insurgents. Over the past month alone, the country has witnessed two major militant offensives in strategic locations such as Sangeen district of southern Helmand province and the Hisarak district of eastern Nangarhar province. 

"The movements of the enemy have expanded, they are trying to target Afghanistan's strategic locations and get control of some areas," said Najibullah Danish, the Ministry of Interior's (MoI) deputy spokesman. 

Although the Afghan security forces have largely proven themselves up to the task of holding the militants at bay, refusing to concede important strategic ground for more than a few days at any given time, the bold aggression of the insurgents and a number of high-profile attacks such as the bombing in Urgoon, which left 96 innocent civilians dead, have raised major concerns about the leadership of the security forces and the policies of the Afghan government. 

Many analysts, along with civil society groups, have criticized President Hamid Karzai's new order that prevents the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) from using heavy weaponry against the Taliban. They have argued the policy unduly limits the capabilities of the military, demoralizes the Afghan forces and emboldens the insurgents. But more broadly, many have said the order adds to the existing confusion surrounding the governments policy toward insurgents.