Update: An overeager employee of the Ministry wanted to sound funny and cynically remarked that what the guy from the UK really means in the vid is that in some places "they are growing weed instead of poppy, that's a success." We fired this employee. One should really keep in mind that the overwhelming majority of Afghan farmers is not involved in cultivating opium poppies or hashish - even while a major part of Afghan society and the economy is affected by the drugs trade in all sorts of ways, one of them being how its revenues circulate around.
Monday, May 4, 2009
Triage Lite - Before a Great War on Poppies?
The Ministry is in disarray. People are rushing up and down the corridors, phones are ringing - signs of bureaucracy trying to make sense of new stimuli from its environment. The reason? No one is entirely sure here since when has a "strategy" of "clear, leave, and sometimes return to abandoned villages to fight firefights" replaced the old COIN imperative of "clear, hold, build." But Canadian and Afghan forces in Kandahar are acting as though this would already be the new leading principle, and, yes, they are even referring to it as a "new strategy." They are leaving outposts behind, executing a precise reverse of the "surge (in among the people)" approach.
In one drawer, somebody found some old report in which Canadians are mentioning a "triage" approach to protecting only the key and more supportive districts of the province. It was something that did not seem odd at the time. With the manpower they had available, that was as much as they could execute, of an ink blot approach. The hope was that constantly incoming Afghan and additional U.S. troops would eventually allow for these ink blots to spread. Instead, this time, a "triage lite" of sorts is being applied, apparently, dubbed "Operation Deny." An entire, poppy-cultivating "peninsula" is about to be left behind - upon hearing the word "peninsula" somebody suggested we should set up a working group devoted to studying "ignored details of Afghan geography" over here, at the Ministry, but fortunately that initiative died down as there was enough work for everyone to do. So what is this? We are studying developments.
For now, working hypotheses include that the incoming U.S. troops later on may eventually move into the poppy-cultivating areas instead of the Canadians and the ANA. People at the counter-narcotics department of the Ministry are (high) on vacation at this point, and the hope for the rest of us is that the incoming troops will not really be given the task of "killing all poppies."
The secretariat - the people who are aware of all the deadlines and do the actual work at the Ministry - is even suggesting that by the time additional U.S. soldiers fully set up shop in the south, much of the harvest may be accomplished. See relevant video below (many are hoping for some promotions here, as a reward for pointing out this report from "al-Jazeera," i.e. the "poppy-filming peninsula").