August 10, 2009

Killing Pablo -- er, Ahmed

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?