If "to target" means to capture or kill, this is not necessarily a good idea.
WASHINGTON — Fifty Afghans believed to be drug traffickers with ties to the Taliban have been placed on a Pentagon target list to be captured or killed, reflecting a major shift in American counternarcotics strategy in Afghanistan, according to a Congressional study to be released this week.
United States military commanders have told Congress that they are convinced that the policy is legal under the military’s rules of engagement and international law. They also said the move is an essential part of their new plan to disrupt the flow of drug money that is helping finance the Taliban insurgency.
Color me eight shades of skeptical that reducing the Quetta Shura Taliban's income from narcotics will significantly affect their operations. I am, overall, deeply wary of counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan and what effect they have on our mission. If, on the other hand, we are "targeting" local power brokers -- and not just drug traffickers -- and by "targeting" we mean identifying and tracking, that might not be a bad idea. I think we should very much be tracking and mapping the social networks of power brokers in Afghanistan. What are their ties to the government? What are their ties to the insurgency? How do they earn their money? What are their ties to the narcotics trade? To what degree are they predatory toward the Afghan people?
Are we really going to spend our time, money and precious ISR assets going after the Pashtun Pablo Escobar? Again, why are we in Afghanistan? To fight drugs?
Just some thoughts from my time working with Afghanistan. No one would dispute that the opium industry needs to be shut down. But the poppy has as much to do with the farmers as it does with the Taliban. It’s actually not all that complicated. It is the lightest crop available (it can be moved on the backs of motorbikes), which is crucial when you have no paved roads going in and out of your region. It requires very little irrigation, which is essential when you have very low rainfall where you live. It commands a high price for smaller amounts – essential when you can only grow limited amounts and can’t move your crop in bulk to markets. You don’t have to refrigerate or preserve it in any way, also fundamental when you have no storage systems in the region for real cash crops, and the only markets are extremely far away, meaning everything else will spoil. Sure they use it to finance their activities, but there are also farmers out there whose families are starving to death who have told people they will fight for the right to grown enough to feed their families. And with whom do you think they fight?And Foust has more here.
The very simple fact underscoring the difficulties of curtailing opium cultivation in Afghanistan is that, put simply, opium is the local economy in many areas of the country. Because USAID can’t provide direct cereal crop assistance to other countries, it also can’t give farmers realistic alternatives to growing poppies. The money is simply too attractive. Similarly, almost no other crop, including cereal crops or fruits or other cash crops, has an industry willing to front the capital necessary for large-scale cultivation—making poppy one of the only financial options for cash-strapped farmers.
American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.
But then, in the next breath...
The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven-year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.
Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.“Opium is their financial engine,” said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “That is why we think he will fight for these areas.”
The Americans say that their main goal this summer will be to provide security for the Afghan population, and thereby isolate the insurgents.Well, which is it?
But because the opium is tilled in heavily populated areas, and because the Taliban are spread among the people, the Americans say they will have to break the group’s hold on poppy cultivation to be successful.Oh, well, okay. I guess that makes sense.
Abu Ali, who left the drug trade a decade ago and has since joined Hizbollah, described this protection of the hashish farmers as political expediency for a group with major domestic concerns in rural Lebanon.
“Hizbollah is the most powerful Shiite movement in Lebanon but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t need to keep people happy,” he said. “Even though they hate these families, the sectarian system in Lebanon forces them to protect huge Shiite families in the heart of their main areas, like Baalbak.”
In the past few months, however, the drug dealing and carjackings became increasingly brazen. They culminated when Ali Zoitar, a young gang leader based outside Beirut, assaulted and robbed the son of Imad Mughniyeh, a famed Hizbollah commander who was assassinated in Feb 2008 in a Damascus car bombing.
“Ali Zoitar and his boys robbed Mughniyeh’s son,” Abu Ali said. “Even when he told them he was the son of a famous martyr and a fighter for Hizbollah himself, they cursed him and took the car anyway. When they saw how arrogant these boys had become, Hizbollah withdrew its protection of these families.”
As a result, the Lebanese police were then authorised for the first time by the group to begin arrests and operations in militant controlled areas, so long as police only targeted drugs and car theft.
“Drugs are fine, cars are fine but the police have been told that if they enter a house looking for drugs and find 50 machine guns or RPGs, they had better pretend like they didn’t see anything,” a Hizbollah member confirmed. “Weapons are for the resistance.”
Without Hizbollah’s political protection, a Lebanese Army officer warned Noah Zoitar, the 39-year old warlord who controls thousands of hectares of cannabis fields, to end the car thefts and turn over some of the suspects to police. Noah agreed but Ali Zoitar refused and immediately targeted the same officer’s wife, robbing her in her home a few days later.
I heard about Jihad Mughniyeh's car-jacking last week and about spit coffee all over my keyboard. If that isn't the textbook definition of cohones, I don't know what is. Honestly, you know you just don't give a %$#@ when you CAR-JACK IMAD MUGHNIYEH'S KID, proving that the only thing cooler than the phrase "Shia drug gang" might be some of the gang members themselves. That is so gangsta it might even be punk rock.
BEIRUT (AP) -- Gunmen ambushed Lebanese troops in the east of the country on Monday, spraying their military vehicle with gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, a senior military official said. Four soldiers were killed and an officer was wounded in the attack.
The ambush on a major road near the town of Rayak comes after a recent push by Lebanese troops to crack down on the drug trade in the Bekaa Valley and carried the hallmarks of a revenge attack by clansmen.The official said the gunmen, traveling in three four-wheel drive vehicles, sped away after the attack.
“I have been amazed, since returning to Washington from a five-month research trip to Lebanon, by the degree to which policymakers in Washington are concerned about Hizbollah’s activities in the Americas,” said Andrew Exum, a fellow at the Center for a New American Security.But I kid, I kid. Seriously, the key excerpt from his article:
Working with US intelligence and anti-drug officials, Colombian authorities last October announced the arrest of at least 36 members of a cocaine-smuggling ring that trafficked drugs from Colombia and Brazil through way-stations in poor West African states by air, before sending the cargo on to Europe and the Middle East.Now the question I have is whether or not these instances are examples of money-laundering and fund-raising directly controlled by Hizballah or whether these are instead examples of Shia Lebanese expatriates not formally associated with Hizballah making donations to the organization through shadier-than-normal means. And by "shadier-than-normal" allow me to put forth the following "scale of shadiness":
Chekry Harb, a Lebanese national who uses the nickname “Taliban”, was arrested as the leader of the group and described by Colombian and US authorities as a “world-class money launderer” who cycled hundreds of millions of dollars a year in drug proceeds through banks from Panama to Hong Kong to Beirut.In South America, businesses run by members of sizeable Shiite communities in Colombia, Venezuela, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and other countries often serve as cover for Hizbollah fund-raising cells.
“The profits from the sales of drugs went to finance Hizbollah,” Gladys Sanchez, the lead investigator in Bogota, told the Los Angeles Times in October. “This is an example of how narco-trafficking is of interest to all criminal organisations.”
1 = those little donation boxes you see in Beirut
2 = some guy standing on the Corniche stopping traffic and asking passers-by for change
9 = a religious organization using trade in narcotics and blood diamonds to finance their resistance mission
10 = skimming the top off of Coldplay box office receipts
More here. Be sure to check out the pictures.
The war against the Shining Path rebels, which took nearly 70,000 lives, supposedly ended in 2000.
But here in one of the most remote corners of the Andes, the military, in a renewed campaign, is battling a resurgent rebel faction. And the Shining Path, taking a page from Colombia’s rebels, has reinvented itself as an illicit drug enterprise, rebuilding on the profits of Peru’s thriving cocaine trade.
The front lines lie in the drizzle-shrouded jungle of Vizcatán, a 250-square-mile region in the Apurímac and Ene River Valley. The region is Peru’s largest producer of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.
As the military and the rebels skirmish for control of isolated coca-producing hamlets, the reports of rising body counts and civilians killed in the cross-fire, still far lower than the carnage at the height of the Shining Path war in the 1980s and early 90s, are rousing ghosts most Peruvians thought were long dead.