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Taliban still controls major part of territory manned by Oz troops

Sydney, Sun, 22 Apr 2012 ANI

Sydney, Apr 22 (ANI): The Taliban still controls nearly half of Afghanistan's 34 provinces where some Australian troops are present, and remains an 'ever present threat' for these forces, a government report has claimed.

The report is contradictory to Prime Minister Julia Gillard's confident assessment of security conditions last week, where she announced an accelerated withdrawal from Oruzgan Province.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the report, drafted before Gillard's announcement that the bulk of Australia's troops could be home within 18 months, warned that recent security gains, partly due to aggressive tactics, could be in jeopardy as foreign troops pull out.

The Sun-Herald has obtained a copy of the report, which was compiled by analysts working for the Liaison Office, an independent consultancy, and was funded by AusAID and the Dutch government.

According to the paper, the report stated that, while the lives of local people have slowly improved, recent gains are in the balance.

"Improved security and service delivery is set against the announced drawdown of international troops, talks with the Taliban could also result in a political settlement that would involve some type of power-sharing agreement," the report said.

The report also warned of new tensions between the local strongmen as foreign troops leave and the warlord Matiullah Khan, an ally of Australian forces, tries to cement his role as an 'undisputed powerbroker'. (ANI)

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