The U.S. military assault under way in southern Afghanistan seeks to oust Taliban forces but has the secondary mission of disrupting insurgent drug trafficking in a region notorious for large-scale opium production, U.S. and Afghan officials said Sunday.
A main goal of the military operation involving about 15,000 Marines, British troops and some Afghan soldiers that began Friday in Helmand province is to try to win support of local Afghans.
The secondary mission of the operation, in what is seen as a shift in the military’s strategy, is disrupting the Taliban’s drug trade â€” the key source of funding for weapons and explosives used in the insurgency.
…The military had long separated itself from fighting the drug trade in Afghanistan. In recent years, however, U.S. and NATO military officials have concluded that breaking up the Taliban insurgency would have to include cutting off their source of funding, said a U.S. official with knowledge of drug operations in the region.
“We can’t do one without the other,” the official said. “It’s vital to break up their ability to fund themselves. The military has become more aware of that and works closely with the drug enforcement operations in the region.”
U.S. military officials estimate that the Taliban and al Qaeda receive up to 40 percent of their funding from the drug trade. The United Nations estimates that it is closer to 60 percent of all money garnered by the insurgents and terrorists.
2010-02-15 20:31:04 UTC