Page last updated at 13:54 GMT, Wednesday, 1 June 2005 14:54 UK

Analysis: Are the Taleban regrouping?

By Paul Anderson
BBC correspondent, Islamabad

U.S. forces troops patrol with Afghan soldiers in Kandahar
Some believe attacks on US coalition forces will increase
Gauging the strength of the factions, particularly the Taleban, fighting coalition and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, is an imprecise science.

Both sides have significantly stepped up operations against each other in the past few months, but they tend to talk up the overall impact their strikes have.

The Americans recently characterised the Taleban as a declining force.

However, some analysts say Afghanistan is witnessing an increase, not a decrease, in what they describe as the Taleban's sophisticated attacks and they believe that will continue during the coming months.

Increased attacks

As winter turned to spring in Afghanistan and the Taleban resumed guerrilla style offensives in the south and east, American commanders were declaring them a weakened, losing force.

They say they are down to around 2,000 men with declining appeal to former leaders and to the population.

But the American belief, that they are still funded and armed by al-Qaeda, coupled to the frequency and deadliness of their attacks in the past two months, tests that theory to the full.

One Kabul-based analyst said that although the Americans had stepped up anti-Taleban operations, he expected attacks by the rebel movement to increase in the coming months.

He said the real measure of their strength was not their numbers but the sophistication and degree of co-ordination of those attacks.

Sending a message

The assassination of Mawlawi Fayaz, he said, followed by a strike inside the mosque during his funeral, proved just how sophisticated.

Since the cleric was a close ally of Hamid Karzai, it served as a message to the Afghan president of the Taleban's continuing threat.

The killing of Kabul's recently appointed police chief, another ally, sent the same message.

If the Taleban were responsible for the Kandahar mosque attack, in the analyst's words, "they got a lot of bangs for their bucks."

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