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Afghanistan: The Spreading Insurgency (AUDIO)

A week after President Obama announced the beginning of the end of America's military mission in Afghanistan, insurgents attacked Kabul's historic Intercontinental Hotel, killing 11 people. This latest attack illustrates the growing power of the insurgency despite some progress on the ground, according to Crisis Group's newest report on the subject.

In recent months, terrorist groups such as the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami and the Haqqani Network have gained ground in and around the capital in addition to their traditional strongholds in the south. They have increased the size and scope of their attacks, and have faced few, if any, consequences. Support among the public has also grown, in large part because of the Afghan government's weakness and inability to provide many basic services.

The year-and-a-half-long troop surge, contrary to its intended purpose, also played a role in bolstering insurgent groups outside the capital. It led to the insurgency's growth in the north and central provinces, where it has also connected with the local governments.

The government's impotence and the staggering insecurity in Afghanistan have left officials with much to gain from partnering with insurgents. Smuggling has become the most profitable form of business for insurgents and officials alike, who transfer drugs and minerals to Pakistan and other countries for processing.

It would be impossible for the traffickers to operate without the help of local officials. For a share of the profits, authorities turn a blind eye to insurgent activities or create diversions that allow them to transfer their goods. The huge influx of money from the U.S. and other nations with troops stationed in the country has facilitated this symbiotic relationship in a country that had seen nothing like it before the war. It has seized control of the state, and will be difficult to end within the two-year limit of the troop drawdown. However, the international community can use its financial clout to put pressure on the Afghani government to end the corruption.

While the three main insurgent groups collaborate on attacks and corruption, they often scuffle over control of major operations. As U.S. efforts to crack down on the groups have increased, rifts between the three have widened accordingly.

Even as the U.S. prepares to leave Afghanistan, it must send the message that it is not deserting its ally. The White House must make it clear to ordinary Afghanis that it is not relinquishing the country to insurgents. I spoke with Candace Rondeaux, Crisis Group's Senior Analyst for Afghanistan, about the insurgent threat. Listen to our conversation below.

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