5 years, 12 months ago
We’ve covered this before, but it’s time to circle back around and address it again, this time with a bit more nuance. General John Craddock is incredulous and says it’s time to give him a break.
NATO’s top operations commander hit out on Monday at allies resisting his call for the alliance to use more aggressive tactics against Afghan drug production.
“We still have a handful of nations…who have not listened to the argument but are countering with questions that have been answered over and over and over again,” NATO Supreme Commander for Europe General John Craddock told a seminar in Brussels.
The U.S. general, who has called for tougher action against drug labs and trafficking networks, rejected the idea that his proposal would worsen the Taliban insurgency and stressed it would not involve targeting farmers’ crops.
“This is not about eradication. The fear that this will make the Taliban more mad at us? Give me a break!” he said.
“What are these suicide bombs and IEDs, these terrorist attacks, all about? How can it be any worse?”
Craddock quoted U.N. estimates that the trade in drugs was bringing in about $100 million every year to the Taliban and said the trade also fuelled corruption in the Afghan government.
“If we can take away the wherewithal that they can build these bombs, the ability to buy the materiel and pay the bomb maker, the ability to buy the bullets and pay the trigger puller, isn’t that a good thing?” he asked.
“I will not rest until I have exhausted every avenue to convince the political leaders of NATO that this is a moral requirement to protect their forces.”
On a mission, he is. But not so fast. Will poppy eradication really stop the flow of revenue into the Taliban coffers? In Kidnapping: The Taliban’s New Source of Income and Financing the Taliban we pointed out how the Taliban had learned to behave like an organized crime syndicate, making protection and extortion money on everything from kidnapping to taxes on businesses and even marble quarries.
It isn’t obvious that a total eradication of poppy from the landscape would cause a diminution of Taliban capabilities. But let’s acknowledge General Craddock’s point that we shouldn’t care a whole lot how the Taliban feel if we destroy their income. If in fact there are Taliban – farmers by day, fighters by night – who are growing and making money from poppy, and we can positively identify them as being Taliban, then The Captain’s Journal is in favor of destruction of their crops.
But there’s the rub, isn’t it? If we can make positive ID of Taliban, then destruction of their crops is irrelevant since we should stalk and kill them. On the other hand, the real question isn’t whether we are going to make the Taliban more mad at us. It’s whether some heretofore uninvolved farmer or his sons become enraged at the destruction of their livelihood and then become Taliban. The real concern is stoking the insurgency with new members, not the disposition of the old members.
Finally, just in case any of this gets lost on our leadership, remember that the U.S. Marines, the best warriors on the planet, including COIN, specifically avoided poppy eradication during their tenure in the Helmand Province. They were there to kill Taliban, not crops, said they.
Indeed, from negotiating with alleged moderates to poppy eradication to [you fill in the blank _______], everyone is searching for a magic incantation to utter, a special section of FM 3-24 released only to the Gnostic special few that tells us how to do COIN, some trickery of the enemy, or some other solution to the campaign that doesn’t involve more troops. If we only do this, we can win – if we only do that, we can be successful. Alas, there is no easy solution forthcoming.