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Afghan insurgent attacks down: A sign of widening Taliban fractures?

An independent monitoring group says insurgent attacks in Afghanistan are down 43 percent compared with this time last year. 

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Afghan farmers work on a wheat field in Nangarhar province May 16.

Parwiz/REUTERS

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Afghan and NATO leaders will gather in Chicago this weekend to discuss the future of security in Afghanistan as international troops prepare to end combat operations in 2014.

Throughout the past decade, international conferences about the Afghan conflict like this one have become a fixture on the international political landscape, though often producing opaque results.

Unlike past summits, however, the Chicago conference represents the first time such an event takes place amid a reduction in violence – a 43 percent drop of insurgent attacks, according to a report released last month by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office.

ANSO called the drop in attacks the “first reliable indicator that the conflict may be entering a period of regression after years of sustained, and compounded, growth by all actors in the field.”

It remains unclear if this decline will stick. As the US pushes for a negotiated settlement to end the war, the Taliban has shown signs of increasing division. The ensuing fragmentation of the group could be behind the drop in violence, in which case the present calm remains extremely fragile.

The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office logged the 43 percent decrease in insurgent initiated attacks for the first quarter of 2012 as compared to the same period last year. The organization’s security reports are considered among some of the most reliable. Over the past year, they’ve been at odds with American and international military statistics that tracked a downturn in violence while ANSO recorded increases.

Still, many Afghan leaders are cautious.

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