Violence in Afghanistan has increased significantly compared to previous years and against seasonal trends, according to a recently released U.N. report.
Last week's report said the number of roadside bombings increased by 94 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to 2009. Also, the number of assassinations by insurgents rose by 45 percent, while the rate of complex suicide attacks doubled, demonstrating a growing capability of terrorist networks linked to al-Qaida.
Despite the report's grim statistics, a NATO spokesman said the international force is on the right track, and it expects to see progress in the fight against insurgents by August.
Abdul Hadi Khalid, Afghanistan's former Deputy Minister of Interior for Security Affairs, said that more than just brute force is needed to bring down the violence.
"I don't think that [the] Afghan war [is] just a military war. It's a war of poverty, poor governance [and] corruption. All these issues are together," said Khalid.
Next month's international conference in Kabul is a key part of a multi-pronged approach to stabilizing Afghanistan, said Khalid. He expects these issues will be high on the agenda, including how to hand over security from NATO to Afghan forces.
Khalid acknowledges that Afghan security forces are not ready for the responsibility yet. He said it is important for President Hamid Karzai's so-called "Afghanization" process to continue to provide jobs and confidence to ordinary Afghans.
The U.N. report says most of the violence is in the country's southern and southeastern regions, areas which are Taliban strongholds and have seen an influx of coalition troops this year.
U.N.'s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan, Wael Haj-Ibrahim, said the report's findings show that his agencies have been able to provide aid for nearly 90 percent of those displaced in Helmand province.
"We are operating in a difficult environment. We certainly hope that all parties in the conflict will respect that we are there only to provide assistance to people," Ibrahim said. "We continue to be transparent in what we do. We continue to communicate openly why we are there, how we are assisting people and why we are assisting people."
And, as NATO and Afghan forces prepare to launch operations in neighboring Kandahar province, the director for Afghanistan's Center for Research and Policy Studies, Haroun Mir, said he thinks any military progress is unlikely.
Mir believes NATO is hoping that Afghan President Karzai will be able to break new ground in alleged secret negotiations with the Taliban with the help of the Pakistani government.
"This is the hope of NATO. It's not that their military operation [alone] will be able to reduce the capacity of the Taliban in Afghanistan. And this is why they are hopeful that this could lead to some kind of agreement between [President] Karzai and Pakistan," said Mir.
He also pointed out that several high-ranking Pakistani officials already have visited Kabul, and he expects Mr. Karzai to travel to Islamabad soon.
The Pakistani government has offered its support in negotiating with the Afghan Taliban. But analysts have accused Pakistan of granting Taliban fighters free reign to launch attacks into Afghanistan from their suspected strongholds in Pakistan. Regional experts see this as Pakistan's way to counter the influence of its rival India in Afghanistan.
Recently however, Pakistan has helped U.S. authorities in arresting a number of Afghan-Taliban militants, including the group's second-in-command, Mullah Baradar, in Karachi. But the Pakistani military focuses most of its strength on dismantling networks of homegrown Taliban who stage attacks in Pakistan.
Meanwhile, analysts predict that upcoming parliamentary elections in September will boost the level of violence in Afghanistan even more.