Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Military to Finally Cut Taliban Access to Opium Trade

The New York Times reports today that “American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.”1 In 2004 I served as Military Fellow to U.S. Representative Jerry Lewis (Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee). During that time, he had already begun to advocate the elimination of the opium crop in Afghanistan.

The Times reports that the Taliban reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade; enough to sustain Taliban military operations in southern Afghanistan each year. As early as 2004, Lewis repeatedly asked military leaders why they had not eradicated the Afghani opium crop - the foundation of current and future Taliban power. But at the time, military leaders were staying clear of the operations of the sovereign government of Afghanistan. Since the opium crop was considered a non-military target it could not be included as part of overall strategic military planning.

It is good to see the change in strategy. And with the support of Appropriations Committee leadership, this effort will not lack for funding.

[1] Dexter Filkins “U.S. Sets Fight In The Poppies To Stop Taliban,” New York Times, April 29, 2009