Skip to comments.Common Sense: Bankrupting the Taliban (Oliver North)
Posted on 09/03/2009 9:08:07 PM PDT by jazusamo
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Last month, our Fox News' "War Stories" team was in Colombia, covering the tough fight against a narco-insurgency, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. This month, we're in Afghanistan, covering another narco-insurgency, the Taliban. In Colombia, cocaine fuels and funds the terror. Here in Afghanistan, it's opium. Despite extraordinary differences in culture, climate and terrain, there are dramatic parallels in the two campaigns. More importantly, lessons learned in the Andean basin are being applied here in the shadows of the Hindu Kush. Both countries have isolated agricultural populations vulnerable to coercion by insurgents financed by narcotics trafficking. In Colombia, the world's largest producer of cocaine, the FARC turned to drug funding when support from fellow communists dried up with the collapse of the Soviet empire. Here in Afghanistan, the global leader in opium production, the radical-Islamist Taliban became drug-dependant after being driven from power in 2001 during the opening days of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Despite international efforts to cut foreign financial support for the Taliban and a crackdown on the movement's activities in Pakistan, the Taliban have derived newfound wealth from the heroin trade. A new U.N. report estimates that the Taliban reap as much as $70 million a year from the sale of precursor chemicals, taxes levied on opium farmers, "protection fees" for heroin processing laboratories and "product deliveries." Some U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials here believe Taliban drug revenues are more than twice that amount. They point out that the lucrative drug trade also has resulted in corruption on a massive scale within Afghanistan's national and provincial governments. This nexus of narcotics, crime and terror has prompted a dramatic change in allied strategy that provides new opportunities for success in Afghanistan.
Coalition commanders, cognizant of growing public discontent about the course of the war, are focusing on how opium is funding the Taliban and adversely affecting prospects for a successful counterinsurgency campaign. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has all but abandoned efforts to eradicate opium poppy cultivation because it was raising resentment against his troops and the Afghan government. Now coalition efforts have shifted to targeting drug kingpins -- and their connections to the Taliban.
In the year since we were last here, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has more than quadrupled its presence in Afghanistan. Nearly 100 DEA special agents, intelligence specialists and trainers are deployed, not only in Kabul but also throughout the country. Small, well-armed and highly mobile DEA foreign-deployed advisory and support teams, or FAST, are working closely with U.S. and NATO special operations units, Afghan commandos and specially trained counter-narcotics police.
DEA intelligence experts and a growing network of informants -- something other U.S. agencies have been unable to duplicate -- are providing detailed "actionable" information -- "target sets" -- that can be exploited rapidly in "capture-kill" missions. Precisely targeted raids by highly trained specialists are creating havoc within the hierarchy of the opium-trafficking networks that help to fund the Taliban. As one FAST member put it to me shortly after a night operation that took down a heroin-hashish "bazaar" and bagged more than a dozen narco-terrorists, "We're already hurting them, and we're just getting started."
Because these operations are quick, low-profile and self-contained, they serve as a "force multiplier" for Gen. McChrystal's conventional forces. Perhaps equally important, nearly every mission undertaken by these units results not only in drug seizures but also in captured weapons, recovered IEDs and new intelligence about Taliban activities.
Interdiction operations such as these are not being conducted in a U.S.-NATO vacuum. U.S. trainers are deployed to train, mentor and advise Afghanistan's fledgling counter-narcotics police. The Afghan Sensitive Investigation Unit and National Interdiction Unit now number more than 275 law officers -- many of whom accompany DEA agents and special operations forces on raids.
Gen. McChrystal's assessment of the situation in Afghanistan -- presented this week to the White House -- acknowledges how difficult the campaign here has become as U.S., allied and Afghan casualties mount. There are calls from the left and the right -- just as there were in 2006 during dark days in Iraq -- to throw in the towel, to "get out and get out now." That's not what we're seeing and hearing from the soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines we have encountered here. And that's not what we're told by the DEA and special operations personnel with whom we are embedded.
Cutting the flow of narco-funding for this insurgency won't, in and of itself, win the war in Afghanistan. The country still has only one paved highway, and the near total collapse of basic infrastructure is indicative of how badly the U.N. and the "international donor community" have squandered billions here. But if we are to see the "light at the end of the tunnel" in Afghanistan, bankrupting the Taliban is a good place to start.
Once Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, the Democrats said, “Never again!”
Good one and you’re right, they’d rather pull out with their tails between their legs.
I believe he did it by out-spending them on SDI. The parallel here would be for us to make our own heroin, put it on the market and run Afgan producers into the ditch: "Abul, tear down that poppy plantation."
You think the DEA could get on board?
Don't they use it to make morphine?
It would be the most useful thing they did in their existence.
We’d have to cut out the Taliban middleman. You know, like gettint around an Obama bureaucrat to get a visit with a doctor- near impossible.
OK, I'm down with that. Cut em out, with prejudice.
Outspending them and convincing them that we were accomplishing things we were not even working on. That and providing them with "smuggled" preloaded computers that sent them off billions of rubles in wrong directions etc. et al and lots more. Years later when the extent of the Reagan snow job was revealed the NYT waxed indignant that we had LIED to the USSR and had cheated them into economic early collapse. It wasn't fair and somehow we should give it all back or something.
“Precisely targeted raids by highly trained specialists are creating havoc within the hierarchy of the opium-trafficking networks that help to fund the Taliban. As one FAST member put it to me shortly after a night operation that took down a heroin-hashish “bazaar” and bagged more than a dozen narco-terrorists..”
After bashing our troops and Flag, Obama may have to eat a little humble pie, or surrender us ...
Once Reagan bankrupted the Soviets, the Democrats said, Never again!
But we WILL have National Health Care. And THAT will WITHOUT A DOUBT beat the ISLAMIST, the Communist, and ALLL OF OUR ENEMIES NOW AND FOREVER.....well at least that is what our obambi believes.
Yep, Holder hasn’t done a thing to help us as yet and he’ll get worse.
Suppose we use the same method to fight other threats. Let’s say, cancer. We invent a cancer we can control, put it in the body to rob the indigent form, and once it’s withered and gone, introduce the chemical ‘key’ to shut ‘our’ malignancy down. Fight fire with fire.
Thanks for the post, had no idea Reagan went that far and, that the NYT hasn't changed a bit over the years.
I remember being totally jaw dropping incredulous when I saw the headline and read the article. I at first didn't believe I was really reading it. There are a couple of books about the Reagan takedown of the USSR and how he and JPII and Thatcher accomplished it. Alas I don't remember the titles. I have one somewhere. Now I have to go hunt it up again. It made me laugh more than any other book except maybe Bored of the Rings.
wHEN you find that book will you please send me the title?
Yeah, we’ll bankrupt the Taliban by making the profit margin on heroin and opium even higher than it already is! That’s the ticket!
If we’re going to be staging a Columbia-style Drug War in Afghanistan, then get ready to have US troops in Afghanistan for the next few decades. They can’t even keep drugs out of prisons (and in some states they used to hand out free cigarettes), and yet they think they can “eradicate” them in an entire nation. Ridiculous.
Thanks for the ping Jaz.