What the near future holds for Afghanistan is the Taliban's much ballyhooed spring offensive. The U.S. has promised 3,200 more troops for the region, in addition to the 24,000 already on the ground, and by doing so has extended the tours of an entire brigade in anticipation of a massive Taliban assault. But as U.S. and NATO forces gird for a conventional battle in the south, don't expect the Taliban to start digging trenches. It's an insurgency, stupid. A Taliban spokesman has declared that he has 2,000 suicide bombers ready to act once the snow melts. While it's hard to believe that they have the wherewithal, or even the explosives, to outfit such a large number (Taliban math rule of thumb: Divide everything they say by 10), expect a brutal wave of suicide attacks modeled on those in Iraq. Kabul's winter of peace is about to be shattered.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan's poppy fields are flourishing: this year will be the largest crop ever harvested. Fearing that spraying would only further alienate a population increasingly dissatisfied with the central government, President Hamid Karzai has decided against chemical eradication. Instead, poppy fields are to be bulldozed or hand-cut by the Afghan antinarcotics force, a time-consuming process easily circumvented with bribes. Afghanistan supplies 92% of the world's base for heroin. Counternarcotics experts don't expect market share to increase. A purer, more addictive product will hit Western streets instead. Public health officials be warned.