Troops Cuts in Afghanistan as Opium production rises

One of the primary sources of funding and political support for the Taliban remnants in Afghanistan has been the opium growers. This a black market group operating outside the boundaries of the state. A successful peace in Afghanistan will only occur when the legitimate economy can provide opportunities for the farmers of poppies that are reasonably close to the opportunities that they receive from growing opium. Previous eradication efforts have been successful in having opium farmers voluntarily replanting their fields with something else. However as John Robb points out via this Montreal Gazette article, the promised supports and seeds that were supposed to serve as a supplement to the farmers’ incomes never showed up.

This is a problem because the formerly peaceful and politically quiet opium growing tribes are seeing the new government of Afghanistan with its eradication method a threat to their economic livelihood. The tribal response is to mobilize local self-defense forces to defend their crops, including the now extensive opium production that they are planning for the next growing season.

At the same time, the United States is planning to pull most of a brigade out of Afghanistan to build some rest and recuperation time into the overall schedule. The plan is to rely on Afghan government forces to perform the presence and patrol missions that the non-replaced brigade performed while keeping US and NATO forces as the over the horizon heavy intervention units.
The Afghan Army will be fighting an ideological/political war with the Taliban and it could find itself fighting a war of economic survival with the opium growing tribal areas.

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