Afghanistan: Everything Is For Sale


July 13, 2010: The Taliban continue to have recruiting problems. Although a major source of jobs in southern Afghanistan, few potential recruits are ignorant of the risks. Adult men are increasingly reluctant to join the Taliban payroll. Even Afghan police or soldiers are lethal if you run into them, and the foreign troops, even with the current ROE (Rules of Engagement), which make it easier to use civilians as human shields, can still track you down. As a result of all this, the Taliban are hiring younger teenagers for jobs like lookouts and planting and setting off roadside bombs.

These bombs killed over a thousand civilians in the first half of 2010. While the Taliban spend a lot of money and effort (intimidation of journalists) to keep this out of local media, people know. Thus adult men are reluctant to get involved in the bombing operation, and be tagged as a murderer by other Afghans. Same with the other big Taliban activity; terrorizing tribal leaders and government officials. The Taliban is popular mainly with the dumb, desperate and despicable. Not exactly the A-Team. The most respectable jobs in the Taliban involve producing and moving heroin. This is also where the money is. The primary weapon is the bribe, as violence tends to disrupt business. The growing unpopularity of the Taliban has led to more people willing to report terrorist activities. This has led to more Taliban leaders, couriers and key personnel being identified, and captured. This despite increased security measures used by the Taliban.

Corruption gets Afghan troops killed in interesting ways. For example, every month or so, some Afghan soldiers or police get killed by friendly fire from aircraft. This happens because Afghan forces are not supplied with electronic or other devices used by foreign troops, to allow warplanes to keep track of where the good guys are down there. The main reason for not giving Afghan forces blue force tracker (GPS locators) or infrared panels is because the corruption is so great among Afghan troops and police, that the Taliban would be able to buy these devices and use them to avoid air attacks.

The Afghan national government, despite a quarter or more of foreign aid since September 11, 2001 getting stolen by corrupt officials, wants greater control over this money. Since September 11, 2001, 77 percent of the nearly $30 billion foreign aid was largely kept away from the government, with NGOs and foreign governments trying to control the money and how it was used. Even so, a lot was stolen, because that's the traditional way of dealing with such gifts from foreigners. The government says it is working to reduce corruption, but that's not true. The billions in foreign aid is still seen, by most Afghan officials, as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get rich. Afghanistan is, according to international surveys, one of the most corrupt nations on the planet (only exceeded by Somalia). The problem is that the foreigners are more energetic about building an Afghan nation, than most Afghans are. To make matters worse, the Taliban death squads concentrate on competent government officials, those who are less corrupt and more eager to establish an efficient government.

The corruption kills. The government banned ammonium nitrate fertilizer because it could be used to make roadside bombs. There was no other source of explosives. Unlike Iraq, there was not as large a supply of old military explosives. In 2008, 38 percent of the roadside bombs were made with old military explosives. Last year it was twenty percent. The ban on ammonium nitrate was supposed to cripple Taliban bomb builders, but corrupt officials and security forces make it possible to smuggle ammonium nitrate in along the few roads. Even though the bombs mainly kill Afghans, a bribe is just too tempting. So over 80 percent of roadside bombs continue to use ammonium nitrate for the explosives.

Foreign troops, and many of their commanders, are clamoring for a change in the new ROE, which make it much easier for the Taliban to successfully use civilians as human shields. This is believed partly responsible for the high number of foreign troops killed (77) last month. Afghan civilians are also angry about these ROE, because it protects the Taliban, and allows the Islamic radicals to continue terrorizing and killing civilians.

July 12, 2010: Over the weekend, 11 police and one government official were killed by the Taliban in the north, near the Tajikistan border. This increased activity up north is believed in support of drug smuggling operations. This is where the big money is, getting the heroin moved (out of Afghanistan, to markets in Europe, North America and elsewhere). Since Afghanistan is in the middle of nowhere, the heroin has to be moved long distances. About 40 percent of the heroin goes out through Pakistan, but most of the rest moves through Central Asia. The Taliban get paid a lot of money to insure that tons of heroin move unmolested across these northern borders each month. The money is so lucrative, that different Taliban factions are fighting each other over the smuggling business. A favorite tactic is to simply pass on, to the government, information about a rival Taliban groups smuggling activities. This has caused some deadly rivalries among the Taliban.

A Pakistani terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba,  that had long concentrated on attacks against Indian Kashmir, has increasingly been showing up in Afghanistan. This is because the Indians have largely crushed Lashkar-e-Taiba efforts in Kashmir, and the Pakistani government has been putting a lot more pressure on the group inside Pakistan. So many Lashkar-e-Taiba members have fled to Afghanistan, seeking a less lethal work environment.





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