Afghanistan: Paid and Played


October 20,2008:  The Taliban appear to have 20-30 percent more gunmen in operation this year, largely because of greater earning from the drug business. They have adopted new tactics that emphasize operating in smaller groups, and trying to avoid the foreign aircraft and UAVs that appear to be everywhere. This year, the Taliban are leaving attacks on foreign troops up to terrorists (al Qaeda and Taliban). However, only about four percent of the victims of these attacks are foreign troops. Some 80 percent are Afghan civilians, and the rest Afghan police and soldiers. So far this year, 5,100 people have died in Taliban related violence. Most of the dead were Taliban or al Qaeda, killed by foreign and Afghan forces..

Most Taliban concentrate on trying to control the population around drug producing areas, and along the smuggling routes the gangs use to get the stuff out. All this work for the drug gangs brings in enough money so the Taliban can pay their gunmen twice what the soldiers or police get. Taliban commanders get paid more than police and army commanders, and there's plenty of money available to bribe government and military officials. The drug gangs back the Taliban because the Islamic zealots distract the police and army from disrupting drug operations. The drug lords don't think that the Taliban have much chance of regaining control of the entire country. All Afghans remember how widely reviled the Taliban were in the years before they were overthrown in late 2001. But if the Taliban should regain power, the pre-2001 deal with the drug gangs will be revived. That is, the Taliban will tax the drug trade while telling the world that they have banned it. To the drug gangs, the current government is much too dangerous. Although many senior members of the government have been bought, most are hostile to the heroin trade, and willing to work with NATO and the U.S. to attack the drug business. So the Taliban get paid and played by the drug gangs, who have a more certain future than their religious allies.

The Taliban are trying to mitigate the NATO and U.S. use of smart bombs by staying among civilians as much as possible. That sometimes causes the foreign troops to withhold fire, and if the attack is made anyway, the dead women and children can be used to generate effective propaganda against the foreigners.

Corruption in the government has crippled many of the reconstruction projects, and commerce in general. This has angered many Afghans, and helped the Taliban. The drug gangs spread a lot of their money around, and the Taliban like to abuse or kill government officials in general (no matter if they are corrupt or clean.) Afghanistan was never a united country in the Western sense, but rather a coalition of tribes with a figurehead "king" in Kabul to deal with the foreigners. To most Afghans, this has not changed.

October 19, 2008: In the last two days, Afghan soldiers and police killed over 60 Taliban outside Kabul. The Afghans were assisted by foreign aircraft and troops.

October 17, 2008: The Taliban tried to stop two buses travelling outside Kandahar. One bus managed to keep going. The Taliban stopped the other and examined the ID documents of the fifty passengers, and killed 30 of them. The Taliban said the dead men were soldiers or police. But the army said it only moves its men around by armed convoys in this area. At least one child was among the dead.

October 15, 2008: Police and foreign troops continued to locate and kill Taliban operating around the capital of Helmand province. Several dozen more were killed in the last two days. Some were captured as well. The Taliban force, which (based on an examination of the many dead and captured) has a lot of Arabs and Pakistanis with them. The Taliban appear to be protecting drug operations. The drug gangs fear that the newly announced NATO and American plans to go after drug operations, is about to begin.

October 13, 2008: Over the weekend, several hundred Taliban were detected gathering outside the capital of Helmand province. NATO warplanes and ground forces went after the Taliban and killed over a hundred of them. It's unusual for the Taliban to concentrate that many fighters in one place, as they are easily spotted by NATO and U.S. aircraft, and quickly attacked by smart bombs, and infantry flown in on helicopters. But because this operation was just outside the provincial capital, Afghan and British troops were able to quickly get to the battle via roads.

October 12, 2008: In southern Helmand, a gathering of Taliban leaders was attacked, after being observed for several days. At least four Taliban leaders, and over sixty gunmen, were killed.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

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

Each month we count on your contributions. 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