Trade Fuels Afghanistan Insurgency
Michael J. Carden
— The poppy trade that fuels terrorists and insurgents in
Afghanistan is a problem that must be addressed but doesn’t
have a military solution, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said
at a dinner hosted by the Pacific Council on International
Policy, Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the narcotics trade serves
as the baseline
Farmers in a country that ranks among the poorest in the world,
Mullen said, have little choice but to cultivate poppy to sell
to insurgents, who turn profits from opium trade on the black
market despite Afghan drug laws and national drug controls.
“[Narcotics trade] is the engine that’s running
Afghanistan’s insurgency,” the admiral said. “And
the extent of that is killing its people.”
Part of the solution has to be to replace the poppy crop with
another means of revenue immediately, Mullen said. Otherwise,
farmers most likely will continue to work for terrorists to support
their families. He said the issue is not within the responsibility
or capacity of the military, but rather is a matter for the entire
group of nations working there to figure out.
“We just can’t keep looking the other way,” he
Another problem, the chairman said, is that as al-Qaida loosens
its footprint in Iraq, officials have noticed more foreign fighters
moving into Afghanistan from safe havens across the country’s
border with Pakistan.
“Al-Qaida in Iraq is on the run,” Mullen said, and
U.S. officals are concerned about new groups of foreign fighters
infiltrating from Pakistan’s border regions.
Security improvements in Iraq are allowing the United States
to commit more troops to Afghanistan, Mullen told the group.
An additional Army brigade combat team and two Marine battalions
have been added to the rotation in Afghanistan, an increase of
more than 5,000 troops.
Militarily, the Afghan army has become a credible force, Mullen
said, and a good connection has developed between Afghan and
American troops. But the Afghan police have a long way to go
and need some improvements, he acknowledged. Still, he said,
better security in the country is in the foreseeable future,
and the Afghan government is taking steps in the right direction.