It has been "a bad year in Afghanistan," according to CBC News, with thousands killed, including hundreds of Afghan police, and large areas of the country still outside government control. The NATO forces battling Taliban guerrillas are stretched thin, unable even to guard key roads, and now some are asking, "Is it Mission Impossible?"
One problem is that NATO has never fought this far from its home bases in Europe. Another is that Afghanistan is twice the size of Germany, "with a rugged geography that dwarfs military efforts of any size and that seems to mock military planning."
Political writer Hugh Graham told CBC that there is only one main road in Afghanistan, which runs in a circle around the central mountains and connects the major cities. Most of the fighting has involved that road and the Taliban supply trails which cross it. "The road is the Achilles heel," said Graham, "and they can't really hold it. ... They don't have the numbers of troops."
NATO has only 41,000 troops in Afghanistan, including some from the US, while the US has another 7000 under separate command. The Afghan army is also considered to have a reliable core of about 20,000. Although the Taliban only fields about 15,000 or 20,000 guerrillas and cannot hold territory, it is able to play havoc through roadside bombings.
Kevin McCort, who heads CARE Canada, told CBC that "up to a quarter of the country ... is in this in between context of maybe having government control during the day but, say, Taliban control at night. ... At the moment, we're actually starting to contract in some key areas." Relief supplies are so routinely ambushed and looted that officials like McCort warn of a humanitarian crisis this winter.