Afghanistan: The Taliban Put In Their Place

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July 19, 2007: Tradition is fighting change to a standstill. Tradition means tribe is the primary loyalty, and everyone else is a potential victim, or enemy. Change means civil society, where democracy and negotiation, not threats, bribes and violence, are used to settle disputes. Old customs are hard to give up, and Afghanistan has been resisting change for over a century. Now, the central government has the military might to break the tribal power. U.S. and NATO troops continue combing the south, smashing Taliban combat groups, and, more importantly, depleting the supply of Taliban leaders. The drug gangs see the Taliban as tools, not a threat. The Taliban like to puff themselves up, but most Afghans see them as a bunch of ignorant, vicious and inept religious zealots. The drug gangs are another matter, because these guys have lots of money, and more realistic goals.

July 17, 2007: The poppy crop this year covers about 450,000 acres, up 12 percent from last year. Government efforts destroyed about 50,000 acres this year, and the government is reconsidering spraying. The real war in Afghanistan is the battle to suppress the drug production. Sales of opium and heroin provide warlords with sufficient funds to buy weapons and men to fight the government to a standstill. With wealthy drug lords infesting the southern part of the country, and tempting other areas to emulate them, there is no central government control. About a third of the nations GDP, or some $10 billion, goes to the drug gangs. They have more money to spend on weapons and gunmen than the government does. Without the foreign troops, the drug gangs would already have taken over.

 

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