Afghanistan: Terrorist Cash Crunch Causes Change in Strategy

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May 29, 2007: The Taliban announced a new strategy, which involves sending assassins and suicide bombers after government officials and foreign troops. There will be less emphasis on have large numbers of armed Taliban out and about (where they are spotted from the air, and attacked). This new tactic was opposed by the late Taliban senior combat commander, Mullah Dadullah, as it meant giving up trying to control parts of the country. To do that, you need large numbers of armed Taliban to go out and terrorize heavily armed villages and tribal leaders. Even though the Taliban pay their gunmen twice, or more, than soldiers or policemen, the high loss rate has made recruiting difficult. Al Qaeda, which is desperate for cash, is willing to help with Taliban suicide bombing operations. The suicide bombers usually work for free, so this cost cutting measure avoids a collapse of the Taliban finances. While the alliance with the drug gangs brings in lots of cash, much of it gets diverted to friends and family of Taliban leaders. This is, after all, still Afghanistan, and that's the way things work here. Family comes first.

May 28, 2007: Another large group of Taliban tried to ambush NATO forces in the south, but the tables were quickly turned, and at least 24 Taliban were killed. Locals insisted that seven civilians died, but it was difficult to tell, since all the enemy fighters were guys in civilian clothes, armed with AK-47s or RPG launchers.

In the north, about a thousand supporters of a governor removed from office for corruption, tried to attack government offices. Police opened fire, killing 13 and wounding three times that.

May 27, 2007: The Taliban released three Afghans it had kidnapped, along with two French aid workers last month. France had already ransomed its citizens, and apparently paid ransom to get the Afghans freed as well. The French government denies this, but it was under pressure to pay the ransoms, as it refused to lean on the Afghan government to release imprisoned Taliban leaders, as the Taliban demanded. Italy has successfully done this, and was roundly criticized for it by Afghans and foreigners alike.

May 25, 2007: The government is beginning to realize that the Taliban and drug gangs have merged into a single organization in many parts of the country. As a result, the government is considering changing its policy, and asking foreign troops to go after drug targets, including poppy crops. One major reason for this is that Afghan troops and police are much easier to bribe. Once a police or army commander has taken a bribe, they often stay on the dark side. Despite that, so far this year, soldiers and police have destroyed over 60,000 acres of poppy crops, which is two-thirds more than all of last year. But there are nearly half a million acres of poppies growing in the country.

May 23, 2007: German intelligence analysts believe that Taliban are losing their war, but still remain a regional threat.

May 22, 2007: The U.S. is trying to negotiate deals with UN members to get more Taliban leaders added to the list of 141 who have been declared terrorists. Once on the list, their assets can be seized, and financial transactions blocked. But getting the UN to vote on this requires offering diplomatic goodies to the delegates. It takes time. Because of all the drug money flowing to Taliban leaders, more of them are vulnerable to asset seizure.

 

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