Afghanistan: Can't Keep Killing Without Cash


April 19, 2012: The Taliban and drug gangs continue to suffer losses daily. But the drug operations in the south are pretty extensive and could take years to cripple (and force the gangs to move to another country). About ten percent of the Afghan population is involved in producing and transporting the opium and heroin (and other drugs like hashish, Afghanistan is the major producer in the world). The drug gangs are wealthy enough to absorb the damage in the short term, the Taliban are not. The Taliban are trying to maintain a presence throughout the country but that is expensive. Keeping people on the payroll in the north is particularly difficult because Pushtuns are a minority up there and the Taliban is much hated. You got to pay well to get northerners to represent the Taliban in such a hostile environment. Even the Pushtuns in the north tend to be anti-Taliban, if only because of the drugs. The growing number of addicts in Afghanistan is a daily reminder to all Afghans of the misery the Taliban (which helped the drug gangs get established in the 1990s) have inflicted.

Although Western troops are supposed to be gone after 2014, many Afghans, and neighbors of Afghanistan, don't want that. The main reason is the drug addicts in Afghanistan and neighboring countries. In the West all that Afghan heroin is just another drug among many. But in Afghanistan and surrounding countries the growth of heroin and opium production in the last two decades has become a plague. Most Afghans, as well as Russia, China, and other Central Asian states, want Western forces to remain in Afghanistan in order to keep the war on the drug gangs going. Without such pressure the drug gangs can bribe Afghan politicians to back off. This would leave the neighbors considering invasion as the only good option and no one wants to do that. It's too damn expensive. Getting the Western troops to stick around is a lot cheaper.

Western media are aroused about recently revealed, two year old photos of American soldiers posing with body parts of Taliban suicide bombers. Such photos have been part of warfare since the introduction of photography in the 19th century. But now it is considered bad manners for troops and worthy of indignant headlines. Afghans are perplexed, as the Taliban take similar photos at any opportunity and post them wherever they can. That said, the U.S. government has a long history of trying to prevent the publication of photos of American dead, deeming it harmful to morale. Eventually, this attitude spread to bans on gruesome combat photos of any kind. This is not uniquely American. Controlling the media in wartime is considered essential and has been for thousands of years.

April 18, 2012: The Afghanistan Taliban made appeals for donations on the Internet. Taliban fundraising has been difficult for the last few years because, in Moslem media, the Taliban terror campaign against Moslem civilians gets a lot of bad publicity. Arab donors, in particular, have shunned the Afghan Taliban. Part of this is prejudice, the Arabs having a low opinion of the Central Asian tribesmen. The Pushtun of southern Afghanistan are particularly disliked because the Pushtun see the Arabs as a bunch of effete snobs and they often get physical in putting across this attitude. Recently, the Afghan Taliban have obtained what cash they needed from the Afghan drug gangs but in the last two years those drug operations have been under heavy attack, and the gangs have blamed the Taliban for not being able to keep NATO troops away from drug operations. The Taliban can't keep killing without cash and are becoming more desperate sounding in their pleas for assistance from anyone.

April 17, 2012: In the north (Takhar province) some 150 school girls became sick (some seriously) when they drank water poisoned by local Islamic conservatives opposed to education for girls. The Taliban are not the only group of Islamic radicals in the country that oppose education for women and a lot of other things most Afghans want. The Taliban got their fundamentalist attitudes by adopting the traditions of several Pushtun tribes in Kandahar, which supplied many of the early (and subsequent) Taliban leadership. But most Afghans are more forward looking. In this part of the world such disagreements often lead to death and destruction. Ironically, the Taliban are now officially in favor of education for girls, which is why the Taliban were not immediately blamed for the poisoning.

April 15, 2012: The Taliban staged a number of attacks over an 18 hour period but nearly all of them failed, mostly because of the efforts of Afghan police and soldiers. By Monday morning thirty-six Taliban, eight soldiers and three civilians were dead in three cities. There was a lot of noise but none of the Taliban attack teams reached their objectives. The Taliban knew that the Western media would be late in noticing that the attacks were largely failures and allow the Taliban to get away with declaring victory. President Karzai got caught up with all this and quickly accused NATO intelligence of failing to detect these attacks ahead of time. But when the dust had settled it was obvious that the effort was another Taliban failure, this time mainly at the hands of Afghan security forces. This made the defeat even more painful because the Afghans are not leaving after 2014.

There was some confusion over exactly who organized todays attacks (the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, or both). Afghan and NATO intelligence were aware of preparations for attacks but apparently missed that it was to be one large assault, rather than many smaller ones spread over weeks. Then again, the attacks may have been merged into one combined assault at the last minute, when it was realized that not enough cash was available to bribe sufficient police in order to get past security around the intended targets (government buildings and compounds where foreign diplomats lived). The failure of the attacks did a lot of damage to the terrorists, as it exposed some of the planning and supervisory personnel to capture, along with documents. It was an expensive failure.

April 12, 2012: In the north (Kunduz province) a suicide bomber tried and failed to kill the commander of the provincial special operations unit.

April 11, 2012: In the south (Helmand province) local civilians attacked a bomb planter for the Taliban and cut his ears off. One of the bombs the man planted went off and killed two civilians, making the families of the victim eager for revenge. Most deaths from roadside bombs are civilians. The Taliban will kill any civilian who tries to interfere with these bomb building and planting operations.




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