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Taliban Strikes NATO Supply Depot in Pakistan

Taliban militants in Pakistan have raided another supply depot used to support international troops in Afghanistan as a new report estimated Taliban fighters have a permanent presence in nearly three-quarters of Afghanistan.

In the past two days militants have stormed two warehouses in Peshawar that are key transport hubs for supply convoys moving between the Pakistani port of Karachi and military bases in Afghanistan.

Sunday's assault by an estimated 300 fighters destroyed more than 160 trucks and military vehicles. On Monday, militants targeted another depot just two kilometers away, setting fire to about 50 shipping containers.

Peshawar straddles Taliban-dominated areas of western Pakistan and has long been a key regional transit route. An estimated 70 percent of supplies for foreign troops in Afghanistan pass through the area. More than 90 percent of Afghanistan's foreign food aid relies on the route.

U.S. military spokesman Colonel Jerry Ohara in Kabul downplayed the significance of the most recent raids, but said officials continue to consider alternate supply routes into Afghanistan.

"Initial reports indicate this equipment was for the Afghan National Army. There are no immediate effects on our combat capability, but one of our priorities is to get the Afghan security force to increase their capability and capacity," he said.

Boosting the capabilities of Afghanistan's army and police remains a key part of improving security in the country.

Analysts say Afghanistan security situation is worsening

But a new report by an international think tank said security is worsening in the country, even in the capital Kabul.

The International Council on Security and Development said militant groups are surrounding Kabul, endangering three of the four major roads into the city. ICOS has been studying security issues in Afghanistan for several years, and was previously known as the Senlis Council.

ICOS Director Paul Burton said the Taliban has a permanent presence in 72 percent of the country, up from 54 percent last year.

"The increase in the Taliban's geographic spread illustrates they are now controlling the political and military dynamic in the country. And their superior tactics and strategies are now proven more successful than those used by the West," Burton said.

Officials rebuff criticism

Afghan and NATO officials have rejected the findings, saying they overstate the Taliban's capabilities. U.N. officials who recently visited Afghanistan called the situation "difficult", but not a security crisis.

ICOS researchers said Taliban factions and criminal gangs are now loosely working together to create insecurity and undermine support for the government. The group said the Afghan government and international troops have done little to respond to the militants' changing tactics.

Analysts recommended doubling the number of NATO troops, building a bigger jobs creation program, and licensing some legal poppy cultivation for morphine medicines.

The group also called for better integrating foreign military operations and humanitarian projects by creating a joint civil-military command.