Infantry: Winning The Protection Racket


February 25, 2011: A lot of techniques learned by American troops in Iraq are being transferred to Afghanistan. Actually, some of these tactics are ancient. For example, in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and many earlier irregular wars, the locals were happy to remain neutral, but only if they could avoid coercion by the rebels/terrorists/whatever. In Afghanistan, the Taliban are the enforcers for the drug gangs, that will pay well for anyone who can keep the foreign troops away (from heroin production and smuggling.) The Taliban don't bring much to the locals, other than lifestyle rules (no music, videos, dancing or school for girls) and violent efforts to keep economic improvements (delivered by foreigners) out. So NATO troops are explicitly coming into areas and telling tribal leaders that, if provided information on Taliban location, the economic and other aid will get in because the foreign and Afghan troops will go after the Taliban. Naturally, the Taliban are not happy with this, and have threatened to take it out on the local civilians, especially the tribal leaders. So far, that has led to some civilian casualties, but a lot more Taliban are getting chased down and killed. The civilians keep passing on information.

A lot of this is going on in southern Afghanistan, in provinces like Helmand and Kandahar, which were long Taliban strongholds. The Taliban, because of all that heroin income, have more guns and hired hands willing to do whatever they are told. So the locals like seeing the odds evened up by the foreign troops. Moreover, as long as the foreign troops are around, there are more economic goodies. There are more jobs, more road building and economic activity in general. The foreign troops will eventually leave, but groups like the Taliban don't have a long shelf life either. In the meantime, life is good, or at least better.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close