Archive for the 'Agriculture in COIN' Category



Agricultural Development Teams and Poppy in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 5 months ago

Bouhammer gives serious thought to the issue of poppy cultivation, funding of the Taliban, and alternatives for the Afghan farmers.

The main points of my argument in dealing with the drugs is not to go after the farmers, who are just trying to make a living and provide for their family. They will grow whatever they can that brings in the most money, and unfortunately that is poppy and always has been. If Coalition forces go into a farmer’s property and wipe out his crops, then it will just piss off the farmer and turn him to the enemy. There are also other farmers waiting for the chance to replace the farmer who was just taken out by the poppy eradication. So going after the farmer is not the silver bullet answer. However deploying ADT teams and using them to empower the farmer and show him alternative crops is part of the answer.

The real answer and focus in my opinion is to go after the middle-man, the buyer, the guy who pays the farmer, puts the poppies into a jingle-truck and moves them to a opium factory which turns the poppy into black-tar heroin. If we take out the man with the cash and he doesn’t show up anymore to buy the poppies from the farmer then the farmer will not be as motivated to grow it anymore. He will be m ore apt to switch to other positive crops. The middle-man (the drug trafficker)  is also the one who is moving the heroin by the tons across the borders of Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and other bordering countries. This movement by vehicle is what gets “taxed” by the Taliban and is where they make a lot of their money.

Since we can’t go into Pakistan, Iran and the other countries and take out the labs that are turning this drug into a human-usable product, then we must get them before they cross the border. We must also get the “most bang for our buck”, by using our resources (soldiers, technologies, etc.) to get the largest amounts of opium and heroin at one time. These large amounts are going to be the jingle trucks loaded with pure opium or black-tar heroin that are being moved to the border.

This is the main-stay of my argument. Don’t go after the poor farmer who is just trying to get a little scratch like everyone else in that country, go after the guys that are paying him. Go after the guys who are collecting it (opium) all up, go after the guys who are being taxed by the Taliban and is providing our enemies the funds to continue their fight.

We agree with Bouhammer concerning the issue of targeting a farmer who is merely trying to use a cash crop to provide for his family.  It’s a dumb notion that would only make more insurgents, as our arguments go in our category financing the Taliban.

Agricultural development teams are a good idea for building the infrastructure of Afghanistan and effecting fundamental change in the impoverishment that leads to so much recruitment of low level insurgents.  But there is something fundamentally flawed with this notion that funding the Taliban will be seriously affected with the advent of a different cash crop.

Remember that we have pointed out that the Tehrik-i-Taliban get their monies from wealthy Middle East sultans, timber trade, gemstones, taxation of businesses, kidnapping, and so-called “protection money.”  The Afghan Taliban get much of their income from poppy / opium trade, but only because it’s the predominate cash crop.  What if the crop was different?

Consider again the example of Pomegranates.

“We’d like to see at the end of this year containers of fresh pomegranate leaving Afghanistan for supermarkets.

“There’s a lot of interest in pomegranates in the West because of its health benefits.

“Over the course of the next 10 years we would like to plant 45.9 million trees, which would cover an area slightly larger than the areas which are used for poppy production.”

Asked whether he had been in contact with the Taliban, Mr Brett said: “In the complexity of the tribal system in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in every element of society.

When I talked at the three tribal gatherings, the Taliban were present. I believe that if we don’t communicate with every faction of this problem, we’re not going to solve it.

Pomegranates solves the poppy problem if the project goes forward.  But take note that the purveyors of pomegranate aren’t attempting to solve the problem of Taliban funding.  Pomegranate won’t do that, and neither will any other cash crop.

Let’s do ADTs for the right reason: infrastructure development.  But don’t be deceived into believing that a different cash crop will solve the problem of the Taliban.  They must be targeted head-on.  There is no other solution.

Prior:

Financing the Taliban Part 2

Financing the Taliban

NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue Part 2

NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue

NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue Part 2

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

In NATO and Poppy: The War Over Revenue, we discussed the U.S. and NATO program (then in the planning stages) to eradicate poppy since it provides a revenue stream to the Taliban.  The Taliban also create income from marble quarries in Pakistan, extortion of cell phone providers in Afghanistan, ransom from kidnapping, and “protection” of small businesses.

The plans are finalized now and U.S. forces will fire on drug related individuals without proof that they are connected to any military objective.

NATO will remain within international law when it proceeds with new measures to kill drug traffickers in Afghanistan and bomb drug processing laboratories to deprive the Taliban of its main financing, the alliance’s secretary general said Wednesday.

The official, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, said that “a number of buffers and filters” had been put in place to safeguard the legality of combating what he termed the nexus between the insurgency and narcotics.

“It is according to international law,” he said. “And if nations at a certain stage think that they would rather not participate, they will not be forced to participate.”

Two weeks ago, the alliance was embroiled in controversy after Gen. John Craddock, the NATO commander who is also chief of American forces in Europe, said troops in Afghanistan would fire on individuals responsible for supplying heroin refining laboratories with opium without need for evidence.

In a letter to Gen. Egon Ramms, a German who heads the NATO command center responsible for Afghanistan, General Craddock said that “it was no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective.”

General Ramms questioned the legality of the proposal, warning that it would violate international law and rules governing armed conflict. General Ramms’s letter was leaked, provoking a debate within NATO about the conditions and circumstances under which troops could attack drug laboratories.

Mr. de Hoop Scheffer ordered an investigation into the leak. “Our enemies and opponents in Afghanistan are reading this leak,” he said. “They are not stupid.”

Aside from the effeminate hand wringing over whether this program is “legal,” the program is an attempt to avoid conducting counterinsurgency.

The notions of herion, opium and drug cartels carry connotations of evil, and properly so.  But that isn’t the point.  When the Marines engaged the Taliban in the Helmand province they purposely avoided any destruction of crops, poppy and otherwise.  Turning the farmers into insurgents was not in the mission plan, and the Marines are smart fighters.

Concerning a recent example of Texas National Guard in an agricultural program to compete with the Taliban farms for seed production, we warned that it is one thing to win the competition, and quite another to ensure that the Taliban don’t co-opt the program and turn it to their favor.

Yet another example of this comes from a clever plan to replace poppy with pomegranates.

POMEGRANATES are the key to eliminating heroin, a pioneering charity founder has claimed.

James Brett is spearheading a campaign to persuade farmers in Afghanistan to switch from growing poppies to growing the super-fruit.

He was in Cardiff yesterday as a guest speaker at the annual conference at City Hall of Cymorth Cymru, the organisation that represents people in supported housing.

“I recognised that Afghanistan not only grew the best pomegranates in the world,” said James, who founded the charity Pom 354.

“They also produced more than 90% of the world’s heroin.

“From research I undertook I came to realise that sales of pomegranates on the global market could outstrip the value to Afghanistan of the opium industry.

“With Pom 354 we are putting in place something that is completely viable for the farmers, and that’s vital to the sustainability of the project in Afghanistan.”

Many families in the war-torn country rely on growing poppies, which are turned into heroin, which in turn is smuggled through Europe and has destroyed countless lives in South Wales.

James added: “The tribal elders [in Afghanistan] are very happy that someone has come and started a project they can believe in.

“There’s a lot of unity there and we’re just getting ready to get started on a large scale.

“We’re looking at installing a factory in Kandahar to produce pomegranate concentrate and, if possible, pomegranate jam.

“We’d like to see at the end of this year containers of fresh pomegranate leaving Afghanistan for supermarkets.

“There’s a lot of interest in pomegranates in the West because of its health benefits.

“Over the course of the next 10 years we would like to plant 45.9 million trees, which would cover an area slightly larger than the areas which are used for poppy production.”

The program sounds promising so far.  As for the Taliban?

Asked whether he had been in contact with the Taliban, Mr Brett said: “In the complexity of the tribal system in Afghanistan, the Taliban are in every element of society.

When I talked at the three tribal gatherings, the Taliban were present. I believe that if we don’t communicate with every faction of this problem, we’re not going to solve it.

So what is the solution to the evolving pomegranate problem?  How will we prevent it from becoming a revenue stream for the Taliban?  Will we shoot pomegranate dealers on sight?

The problem is that we have tried everything – from special operations and air raids on high value targets, and now to poppy eradication – instead of classical counterinsurgency with enough troops to accomplish the mission.

The problem isn’t poppy any more than it is marble quarries, small businesses, wheat seed or pomegranate farmers.  There is no solution to the problem of the revenue stream except to kill or capture the Taliban.  Why is this so hard for strategists and staff level officers to understand?

Counterinsurgency: Focus on the Population or the Enemy?

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 10 months ago

In The British Approach to Counterinsurgency we weighed in on the British Kajaki dam project (for readers unfamiliar with this project visit the links provided).  While brave and effective operations were necessary to deliver large turbines to the dam for electricity generation, we observed that this front in counterinsurgency was merely one, an important one also being that of focus on the enemy.

The point is that in order for infrastructure to work, the enemies of that infrastructure must be targeted. The dam won’t long operate if its operators are all killed, or if other replacement parts have to undergo such intensive operations in order to be deployed at the plant. Infrastructure is good, as is good governance. But for these softer tactics in counterinsurgency to be successful, the Taliban must be engaged and killed.

Soon after this “defense analysts” also weighed in with similar concerns.

… electricity supplies are likely to face disruption from Taliban attacks unless the region is cleared of militants, analysts said.

The area is not densely populated, so the power lines must cover many miles of hostile land to reach the remote villages that are due to be linked up to the dam. British troops in Helmand control an area of only a few miles radius beyond the Kajaki dam, so pylons and substations will have to cross what is now a stronghold for militants operating in the region.

“The power lines coming out of Kajaki are going to be extremely vulnerable to attack,” said Matthew Clements, Eurasia analyst at Jane’s Defence. “The arrival of the extra turbine is a major blow to the Taliban, so they are going to be keen to make sure the project fails.”

“In Iraq we’ve seen that overhead power lines are extremely difficult to protect, and there’s no point generating electricity if you can’t distribute it,” said Paul Smyth, head of operational studies at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies.

The point about electricity is also similar to our observations on the grid in Iraq as well as irrigation and water supply systems.  So whatever happened to the dam?  Were our warnings prescient or merely an overreaction?  More on the dam shortly.

Thematically similar operations are being waged in Afghanistan by the Texas National Guard.

Fifty-two Texas National Guard men and women are planning an attack on a Taliban stronghold near here that other Army units estimate would take thousands of U.S. and Afghan soldiers to capture.

The Texans plan to win the battle of Khajanoor Farms without firing a shot …

A Texas National Guard Agribusiness Development Team plans to defeat the Taliban’s hold on the big wheat-seed farm at Khajanoor by building a larger, quality seed farm in the high mountain plains of Ghazni province.

If approved – and if the climate at 10,000 feet can be mastered – the Nawur Farm could free Ghazni’s wheat farmers from Taliban-approved suppliers and lousy products imported from Pakistan.

“It could also save lives,” said Col. Stan Poe of Houston, commander of the Texas agribusiness team …

“For seven years, we’ve been chasing the Taliban. They literally just come back,” said Illinois National Guard Col. David Matakas. “We can go in and kill a lot of people and do no good. It’s more important that we push forward with training the Afghan forces and focus on turning a district, a tribe or a village away from the Taliban, one at a time” …

Khajanoor Farms is in the code-red Andar District. A large force of Taliban fighters controls the 2,500 acres of wheat fields and subsistence plots from caves in mountains overlooking the farm.

Khajanoor was built in 1975 as a government farm to supply wheat seeds to five provinces. There are 96 farm buildings on the site, two wells and a crude irrigation system. The farm’s flour mill is a shambles.

Satellite photos show sharecropper farmers are still cultivating wheat for seeds, but much of the farm is broken down.

U.S. forces say the seed produced at Khajanoor is sold under Taliban control to farmers loyal to the Taliban cause.

The Texans had visited wheat farms in the far north Nawur district, an area populated by descendants of Genghis Khan known as Hazaris. Some of the Hazari farms were at elevations of 10,000 feet. Trees were growing at elevations 1,500 feet higher than you’d find in North America or Europe.

The Ghazni provincial government owns vast tracts of land in Nawur.

There’s plenty of water stored in a vast snowmelt playa called Daste Nawur.

Martin and James thought this offered a way to defeat the Taliban at Khajanoor Farms. They designed a giant, 20,000-acre wheat seed farm north of Daste Nawur that could provide seeds for most of Afghanistan’s wheat farmers.

The Hazaris were eager to help the Texans and willing to learn how to run a large farm …

Lt. Col. Al Perez of San Antonio is the agribusiness team’s market specialist. He’s been in the military for 23 years, both in the regular Army and the Texas National Guard.

“This is way much better than pulling the trigger,” he said. “Way, way better.”

So the plan is to compete with the inefficient Taliban-sponsored operation and send the local population on its way to independence from the thugs.

It’s a nice idea, and along with better language training, The Captain’s Journal supports such tactics.  We have applauded similar efforts by the Department of Agriculture.  So the proof of our support for the nonkinetic part of counterinsurgency is on the books.

But there is a subtle although important problem with this account.  Notice that kinetic operations and population-centric operations are placed in juxtaposition for purposes of contrast rather than complement.  This is a far better way, says Lt. Col. Perez.  Indeed it is, if it works without any focus on finding and killing the Taliban.

But the Taliban have proved resilient and adaptive.  To assume that they can be beaten by developing better seed assumes that they won’t take over “protection” of the new production operation.  Not so, for Taliban operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taliban have made a significant amount of money in operations ranging from taxation of various local businesses, to “protection” for larger industrial operations, to kidnapping and extortion of cell phone providers.  With the Taliban unmolested in this region there is no assurance that they won’t strong-arm the operations for cash.  Mere operation of businesses has not proven to be enough incentive yet for the population to revert to armed resistance against the Taliban.

As for the status of the Kajaki dam?

Afghan workers have kept the power station running throughout the past 30 years of war and upheaval, and even now have negotiated with the Taliban so they can travel to work from their villages …

The Taliban hold sway in the countryside around the dam and even charge people for electricity, so they can be persuaded to let the workers keep the power plant running, the workers said.

“We do not have a problem with anyone,” Mr. Rasoul said. “We tell them we are working and producing electricity for everyone in the villages and towns.”

In the case of the dam, it hasn’t exactly been a nail in the coffin of the insurgency.  In fact, they are making money off of it.  It’s advisable to see soft operations such as this agricultural expedition as part of a whole rather than an alternative to targeting the enemy.  This was our argument in Center of Gravity Versus Lines of Effort in COIN.

The Texas National Guard deserves credit for innovative tactics in the counterinsurgency campaign.  It is apparently a long term program and it will be self-evident if successful.  But the program should not be seen as a replacement for other lines of effort, including targeting the enemy so that he doesn’t use his criminal enterprise to flip yet another soft counterinsurgency program to his favor.

Prior:

Financing the Taliban

Kidnapping: The Taliban’s New Source of Income

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Does COIN

The British Approach to Counterinsurgency

Defense Analysts Echo The Captain’s Journal Concerning Kajaki Dam

The Role of Electricity in State Stabilization

Targeting the Insurgency Versus Protecting the Infrastructure


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