Afghanistan: Taliban Crippled By Heroin Addiction


November 16, 2012: The Taliban have made a lot of effort to plant bombs but are frequently detected and interrupted by alert police and civilians who call in the information with the increasingly common cell phones. Civilians and police are most frequently the victims of these attacks and thus have an incentive to stop them. A more successful Taliban weapon, often used in the service of the drug gangs, is their death squads that will kill leaders and others who oppose the Taliban or the heroin business. These attacks extend to Afghans who work for NATO or government security and intelligence services.

Over the last year most NATO supplies have come from the north, and this has created a temptation for criminal gangs to extort protection money from the truck companies moving the goods. Local officials and warlords are supposed to take care of security (for a cut of the trucking income) but Afghanistan is a land of opportunity if you are a successful bandit. There have been some attacks on trucks and an increase in local homicides.

In an attempt to get peace talks with the Taliban going, Pakistan has agreed to release 13 of 40 Afghan Taliban leaders Afghanistan has asked to be freed. This is supposed to earn goodwill from pro-Taliban Afghan tribes and lead to Taliban groups halting their violence (in return for jobs and economic opportunities from the government). Many Afghan officials believe they can cripple the Taliban using the traditional tactics of tribal politics and bribery. Pakistan is keen to get some cooperation from Afghanistan in eliminating sanctuaries for Pakistani Taliban on the Afghan side of the border. Afghanistan sees no incentive to help with this as long as Pakistan maintains sanctuaries for anti-Afghan Taliban and Islamic terrorists.

The major factor in Afghanistan is still the drug gangs, who have lots of cash and hired guns (who are often Taliban members). Several years of energetic NATO and government operations in Helmand and Kandahar provinces (long the source of over 90 percent of heroin production) has made this production a lot more expensive. Efforts to move production to the north ran into fierce resistance, but some drug gangs have managed to establish operations in central Afghanistan (Uruzgan Province, just north of Helmand and Kandahar). NATO has shifted some forces north to take care of this expansion. Even with the added expenses (to cover captured and destroyed drugs) the heroin business is still very lucrative.

Peace with the Taliban will be complicated by the fact that some Taliban factions have become major players in the drug trade. Recently, the U.S. listed, for the first time, a Taliban leader (Mullah Naim Barich) on the list of key Afghan drug gang leaders. A growing number of Taliban complain that the alliance with the drug gangs is corrupting Taliban followers and leaders. It’s not just the money but also the drugs themselves. Many dead or captured Taliban have been found to be drug users. While not as haram (forbidden) as alcohol, hard drugs (opium and heroin) are considered un-Islamic by many Afghans and their religious leaders.

In preparation for the departure of most foreign troops in 2014, Afghan leaders are calling on tribal chiefs and warlords to get their militias organized. The national government is also getting closer to India, who already supplied a lot of aid and investment. India is seen as a counterbalance to Pakistan, which has long been regarded as the main foreign threat to Afghanistan. Locally, the main problem is the Taliban, who want to reinstall their 1990s religious dictatorship. The brief rule of the Taliban was seen as a disaster by most Afghans, including most of the Pushtun tribes. The Taliban are a Pushtun phenomenon and are considered dangerous because of their fanaticism, willingness to die, and claims of religious superiority. The drug gangs are seen as a disease, not a threat to Afghan unity.

November 15, 2012: In southern Zabul province police found and killed a local Taliban commander and his two bodyguards.

November 13, 2012: The Taliban fired four rockets, by remote control, into Kabul. One person was killed and there was property damage.

November 11, 2012: In Helmand province police found and killed a Taliban leader responsible for planning and carrying out most of the roadside bomb attacks in the province.




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