Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Dao of Strategic Assessment (16): Strategic Assessment's Golden Rule

In our future book, we will emphasize on some of the significant assessment points. ...

April 29, 2009
Poppies a Target in Fight Against Taliban

ZANGABAD, Afghanistan American commanders are planning to cut off the Taliban’s main source of money, the country’s multimillion-dollar opium crop, by pouring thousands of troops into the three provinces that bankroll much of the group’s operations.

The plan to send 20,000 Marines and soldiers into Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul Provinces this summer promises weeks and perhaps months of heavy fighting, since American officers expect the Taliban to vigorously defend what makes up the economic engine for the insurgency. The additional troops, the centerpiece of President Obama’s effort to reverse the course of the seven-year war, will roughly double the number already in southern Afghanistan. The troops already fighting there are universally seen as overwhelmed. In many cases, the Americans will be pushing into areas where few or no troops have been before.

Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million a year from Afghanistan’s opium trade, which now makes up 90 percent of the world’s total. That is enough, the Americans say, to sustain all of the Taliban’s military operations in southern Afghanistan for an entire year.

Opium is their financial engine, said Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. That is why we think he will fight for these areas.

/// By assessing the economic and logistics points of the Taliban, the U.S. Military realized what was their primary source of their strength.

... Among the ways the Taliban are believed to make money from the opium trade is by charging farmers for protection; if the Americans and British attack, the Taliban will be expected to make good on their side of that bargain.

Indeed, Taliban fighters have begun to fight any efforts by the Americans or the British to move into areas where poppy grows and opium is produced.

... To offer an alternative to poppy farming, the American military is setting aside $250 million for agriculture projects like irrigation improvements and wheat cultivation. General Nicholson said that a $200 million plan for infrastructure improvements, much of it for roads to help get crops to market, was also being prepared. The vision, General Nicholson said, is to try to restore the agricultural economy that flourished in Afghanistan in the 1970s. That, more than military force, will defeat the Taliban, he said.

There is a significant portion of the enemy that we believe we can peel off with incentives, the general said. We can hire away many of these young men.

Even if the Americans are able to cut production, shortages could drive up prices and not make a significant dent in the Taliban’s profits.

/// One of the key objectives of the U.S. military is to diminish the momentum of the Taliban's.

To instill chaos into the heart of the opposition, the first step is knowing the mind and the structure of the opposition.

After the Taliban was strategically assessed, the
U.S. military discovered the fuel behind their engine and focused their efforts toward dismantling it.

While politics steer the Taliban cooking pot, the financing of the opium is what fuels the cooking pot.
Eliminate the fuel of Taliban. The idealogy of the Taliban will decline immediately.

This "Remove the Firewood from Under the Cooking Pot" stratagem can be found in the 36 Stratagems essay.

In our soon to be published book on strategic assessment, we will cover more on this point.

The foray into Zangabad suggested the difficulties that lie ahead. The terrain is a guerrilla’s dream. In addition to acres of shoulder-high poppy plants, rows and rows of hard-packed mud walls, used to stand up grape vines, offer ideal places for ambushes and defense.

But the trickiest thing will be winning over the Afghans themselves. The Taliban are entrenched in the villages and river valleys of southern Afghanistan. The locals, caught between the foes, seem, at best, to be waiting to see who prevails. ...

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

When attacking a strong force it is difficult to attack it directly as it stands. In these cases, one attacks the corners. In large scale battles, after careful inspection of the enemy's forces, one can gain advantage by attacking the corners of exposed strategic points. When one has eliminated the strength of the corners, the strength of the whole will also be diminished.
Miyamoto Musashi

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