The Taliban have launched an unprecedented campaign to win money and support from Muslim militants outside Afghanistan amid a resurgence by the group marked by roadside killings, ambushes and public statements boasting of their successes.
After remaining relatively quiet for months, a bevy of Taliban spokesmen have been turning up on Arab TV and the Pakistani media, and a handful have started making direct phone calls to the international press, including The Associated Press.
The calls have increased in step with a bolder, bloodier insurgency that has shaken faith in the Washington-backed Afghan government's ability to assert its control, and the U.S. military's resolve at crushing the rebels.
Omar Samad, the Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the Taliban are using the media blitz to try to get their message out to hard-liners in neighboring Pakistan who share their strict brand of Islam.
"I think it is all part of a more organized effort," he told The Associated Press. "They have lost much of their ability to be a real threat to the whole process of change here, but they unfortunately still have substantial support among influential groups in Pakistan with money and access to arms and manpower."
The rest of this story is kind of murky (are these guys really responsible for a wave of killings of aid workers? have they threatened to cut off the noses and ears of clean-shaven men?), but the upshot is: we haven't even finished the job most Americans think we did manage to finish.
And on the subject of Afghanistan, ABC reported this a few days ago:
...The main highway from Kabul to Kandahar is known as the "American Road" because President Bush promised to rebuild it by the end of the year.
But it is still mostly dirt, and at least five collapsed bridges are in disrepair, which poses major economic problems, since it is a crucial artery for the Afghan economy.
The road is a perfect metaphor for what has happened all over Afghanistan. The international community has pledged less than the government says it needs, and it has received less than was promised. The result is that very little has been rebuilt.
According to some Afghan bus drivers, the "American Road" is also becoming too dangerous to use because armed thieves target the slow-moving traffic. Similarly, relief aid workers say the condition of the road is hindering their work.
"There have been a lot more incidents of people being attacked, bus being attacked, and aid workers being attacked. And that is obviously of concern to aid workers and is having a detrimental effect on aid work," said Sally Austin, assistant country director of CARE International in Afghanistan.
Such incidents are why President Bush wants the road to be paved by the end of the year — all 245 miles of it.
But army engineers who have studied the project say that timetable does not provide enough time to rebuild it properly.
So in order to meet the tight deadline, the "American Road" will get just one layer of asphalt this year instead of the standard three...