Monday, June 25, 2018

Squeezing the Balloon?

Drug production continues to fuel the Taliban by generating money and the need for drug gangs to pay the Taliban for protection to produce and export the drugs from Afghanistan. Where will the drug gangs go?

Drug production in Afghanistan is migrating to more remote areas under coalition pressure:

One side effect of the increased fighting in Helmand Province has been the frequent attacks on the improvised facilities where opium is turned into heroin. Most of these labs are in Helmand and usually in urban areas where it is easier to move the lab supplies in and the heroin out. But the Taliban leader for Helmand has convinced the drug gangs to move their drug labs to rural areas in order to avoid air strikes as well as lower civilian casualties from these attacks. An unmentioned reason for this order is that the labs are unpopular because they are a source of opium and heroin (often stolen) for local addicts. More addicts make the Taliban more unpopular and make it easier for the government to obtain information on lab locations from locals.

Does this explain the recent Taliban assault that reportedly included 2,800 Taliban moved from other places in Afghanistan for the operation?

Does this mean the Taliban and drug gangs are going to move drug production to western Afghanistan for export routes through Iran and western Pakistan?

And keep in mind that Iran has reason to punish the West for the American withdrawal from the highly flawed Iran nuclear deal. And Pakistan has reason to push the trade west away from Pakistan to avoid Western ire in the east over the issue.

I did wonder why the Taliban would go to the effort to move so many fighters to the west for the Farah operation. It seemed odd:

It indeed appears as if Iran is backing the Taliban in western Afghanistan where Taliban from all around Afghanistan massed 2,800 fighters in the failed attempt to take Farah. But the reports of how bad the government's position there are confusing given that the Taliban assault on Farah did actually fail. And the Taliban did apparently have to draw in forces far from Farah. I admit I'm worried. I just don't know if I have a reason to worry.

I didn't think that it was a coincidence that the attack was near Iran (see updates).

And later, I expressed some confusion over just what the Taliban were doing:

It is odd that the Taliban would approve a short ceasefire during their "spring offensive" in the "fighting season," isn't it? I don't trust a three-day ceasefire in Afghanistan. Could the Taliban just be repositioning troops for another try to take Farah? Could it be to help their fighters massed for the prior failed attack scatter back to their points of origin? Or something not related to Farah, of course.

Protecting new drug production and distribution routes in the west near Farah would make sense.

But these are flimsy dots I'm connecting, I freely admit.