This is your counterinsurgency. This is your counterinsurgency on drugs.
Mission Creep keeps expanding in Afghanistan. In an almost perfect marriage of two un-winnable wars, the US wants to fight a prolonged counterinsurgency in Afghanistan while simultaneously dismantling the regions opium trade.
Now there is an undeniable connection between the Taliban and drug profits. But should it really be our mission to delink and destroy the two? First, maybe we should ask is this really a problem that we have the capacity to address. If the answer is yes. Then that means 5-15 years in Afghanistan with a deployment of, at least, 60000 US troops (~100000 ISAF troops). The US is set to spend $60 billion in Afghanistan this next fiscal year – this amount will have to stay steady for the duration of a counterinsurgency campaign.
If that’s not enough, the US will need near-perfect execution to accomplish a mission which includes “disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaida” while also defeating a Taliban insurgency and reducing opium production (in a country that produces some 90% of the world’s total). We’d have to accomplish all these tasks while training Afghan military and police forces and aiding Afghanistan’s political-economic development through our alliances with the Karzai government and various regional warlords. And, oh yeah, we cannot let our relationships turn into cronyism filled with corruption.
Ok, so now to my broader point: Is the US wailing in the wind in Afghanistan? A military hammer in search of an insurgency nail 7,000 miles away. Are drugs and the Taliban such an existential threat to the US that they deserve so much of our time and attention, blood and treasure?
Why did our counterterrorism mission morph into counterinsurgency, which then morphed into counterinsurgency on drugs?
Even more ridiculous is how we are carrying out a counterinsurgency on drugs. We have paid crop farmers to plant nothing. We have bombed bagel toppings. And now we are not targeting the reasons for a drug trade but instead those who profit from it. These “nexus targets” which have been added to the military’s kill or capture list are said to be Taliban financiers and to destroy them will help destroy the Taliban. While this may hurt the Taliban, is it really true that killing or capturing 50 drug dealers will end Afghanistan’s drug trade?