Infantry: Winning The Protection Racket

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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.

 


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