Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Green Alligators (con't)...

Very good multimedia photo essay here by Phil Zabriskie and Yuri Kozyrev of TIME Magazine on the increasingly dangerous situation in Afghanistan. The recent airstikes in the southern providences certainly indicate that coalition forces are stepping up efforts to counteract the Taliban insurgency. It would also appear that Michael Yon and his other colleagues are scooping the likes of the NYT and WAPO on this "Forgotten War".

The opium harvest continues to be the dark force in this extremely tricky situation. A quick synopses:

Afghanistan is about to harvest a bumper crop of opium from the seemingly endless amount of poppy fields growing just about anywhere water can be found in the country. Government supported alternative crop programs abound, but farmers are reluctant since so much more can be earned from growing poppy. That's the simply part of the problem and one that there are many solutions for, all of which take time and consistent focus, but should work in the long run.

The equally pressing part of the problem right now is related to the act of harvesting itself. Poppy pickers make a good wage in Afghanistan. So good that, when harvest time arrives, it's hard to find anybody to do any other work.

The wholesale revenue that will be reaped from this years poppy harvest will buy a lot of weapons and influence for the Taliban. Their other streams of revenue have been significantly cut off due to the efforts of the international community, so opium is their biggest cash cow.

Coalition forces have the ability to virtually eradicate the opium production in Afghanistan and came close to doing just that two years ago, so eliminating the problem at the source is not the issue, the back blast of what would result unfortunately is. Eliminating in one fell swoop a major source of income from so many who rely on the harvest, would put the public support for the Karzai government and coalition forces in severe jeopardy. At the same time, allowing the Taliban a major windfall to further embolden their forces is obviously a losing option as well.

This is not a partisan debate but rather a difficult predicament with huge consequences for Afghanistan, without even addressing the burden of tons of cheap heroin that will be hitting America’s and the rest of the world's streets in short order.

Given all these facts, the only option I see assuming nothing major changes soon, is to allow the harvest to be picked and put the alternative crop programs on the fast track. In addition, step up efforts in the Southern providences and along the Pakistan border, and prepare coalition forces to fight a better equipped army in the coming year. In my mind, losing the support of the general population at this critical period would be a more severe blow given the two options.

I also think this is where legitimate, albeit hindsight, criticism of our involvement in Iraq comes to bear since our ability to send more troops to shore up the trouble Afghanistan is squeezed.

Any other thoughts or ideas?

15 Comments:

At 11:34 AM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

Certianly seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation. We don't want a wealthy Taliban, but we can't cripple the populace either.

At the risk of repeating myself, and enraging you once again, I suggest we do nothing.

Spend the money on securing America instead.

 
At 2:03 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Circy Nightshade said...

I know you may find this shocking - but I agree with Jackson.
I think this is just one of those impossible situations. Getting involved would mean picking a side, and there's obviously no reasonable outcome to that. As much as I hate to say it, I think we have to let it happen. And in the meantime we plan & prepare to deal with the chips wherever they eventually end up falling.

 
At 2:57 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Tony Alva said...

I’m not enraged at your opinions I just simply think that doing nothing is whimsically unrealistic and a failed solution ta boot. “Doing nothing” let’s Afghanistan fall back into the hands of the Taliban with their reprehensible politics of Shira law and with it the return of Al Qeada training camps. That’s what doing nothing get the world. Secondly, Unlike Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan and the ongoing security effort in that country is a multi national effort, NOT a British/American coalition one as with Iraq. The French even have a battalion deployed. The European countries who support the effort and have committed troops there is a strong indicator that despite Afghanistan not having any natural resources to speak of that we can’t do without (such as oil), nonetheless, we in the free global community feel strongly enough that having a non-Taliban ruled Afghanistan is a better option. Leaving them to back slide would be only bring another attack on the U.S. From a military tactical perspective, waiting to be attacked, even if you think it was a stretch to use it in Iraq, is proven failed policy.

You cited history as your prime resource for your isolationist position on Afghanistan. I ask respectfully, can you point to a historical instance where leaving a sworn enemy of ours, one who has attacked us (the Taliban, not Afghanistan), alone has been successful foreign policy? I cited the failure of this policy when Hitler broke promise after promise not to invade the whole of Europe a country at a time and was answered with “I missed the Afghani invasion of Poland.”

Again, not enraged, but asking the question.

 
At 3:17 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

I think the US government should buy all of the heroin and shoot it into space in a big rocket ship. Perhaps a "Tin Foil Rocket Ship".

I don't think there's any way to fully eradicate the Taliban, any more than there's any way to be sure you've eradicated any terrorist organization. It was different with Hitler, who was representing and acting with the authority of a well established government. Terrorism exists between the lines.

Even if we do succeed in Afghanistan, there'll be other terrorists training somewhere else. Work on understanding why terrorism happens, secure the US as best we can (and consider ourselves lucky that 9/11 is as bad as it's gotten thus far) and SHOOT THAT SHIT INTO SPACE.

 
At 3:18 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

You could make the rocket ship look like a giant syringe (it probably already will).

Just a thought.

 
At 3:33 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

Oh, one other thing.

The criticism of our involvement in Iraq isn't coming entirely in hindsight.

People like Jackson and I have been criticizing it all along, and in many cases our point was that is was Afghanistan where the Taliban originated. Of course, we've been rebuffed many times, and told that, after all, terrorists were running amok in Iraq too. Maybe so, but many of us have believed all along that Afghanistan was a bigger issue.

Ah, well.

 
At 3:43 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

If the situation was like Hitler's Germany than we'd have a lot more going for us, once the dust cleared after WWII there wasn't much resentment aimed at us for going over there and blowing stuf up - that will not be the case in the Middle East - yesterday a bunch of civilians were killed in Afghanistan by American forces - despite the American forces intent, which was to kill bad guys, not civilians. Do you think they are going to forget or forgive that?

You ask when was it prudent to do nothing - ask the Swiss.

 
At 4:58 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Circy Nightshade said...

Ok, so we eradicate the opium in order to financially damage the Taliban, while financially damaging the populace at the same time. What are those people to do? Are we (along with other nations), going to make up the difference in pay they would have received from picking the opium crop? And if so, for how long?

Destroy the opium crop and they will just plant more.
The Taliban is like a roach, resilient and ready to scurry to the next hiding place.

 
At 5:04 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Chrispy said...

That's why I think my idea is so brilliant.

We buy all of the heroin, so the people don't suffer. Then we shoot it into space, because space is cool.

We could put the launch on Pay Per View and charge $49.95 to watch. Should help offset the cost of our big score.

 
At 5:18 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Jackson said...

In all actuality, buying the crop wholsale and disposing of it could be an option - I doubt it would be more expensive than warfare.

 
At 5:51 PM, May 23, 2006, Blogger Tony Alva said...

Re: "The criticism of our involvement in Iraq isn't coming entirely in hindsight."

Agreed. I was actually giving you guys and others credit where I thought it was due.

Your suggestions regarding buying heroin/opium cake are really not so far fetched at all and are part of coalition farming alternative programs underway. Of course, the idea is to make farming worthwhile crops as lucrative as opium, but that takes time. I think we'd all agree that helping the country find a way to be more self sustaining by growing food verse lethal dope is a good thing.

The challenge of paying a subsidy on opium is that we'd be subsidzing the Taliban war against us. This is the hearts and minds part of the delemma and why, at least this year, I think we avoid acting to quickly (i.e. Rummy like) we let it be business as usual and work the plan to ween the farmers. A year is a long time.

Unlike Iraq, there are few, if any, major strongholds of Afghan population pining for the return of Taliban rule. The Taliban made themselves popular by providing security in the wild west that once was post USSR occupied Afghanistan. Of course it came with a caveat, Shira law. I've said it before, people will support those who they feel will protect them best. In Afghanistan, a large majority has seen that their government along with coalition forces can provide the protection they so desire without the brutal rule of Shira law.

If this starts to erode, the people will have no choice other than to submit and we will have let them down if that happens.

Appreciate the level headed discourse here...

 
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