Patterico's Pontifications


Marine Offensive in Afghanistan (Updated)

Filed under: Obama,War — DRJ @ 1:00 pm

[Guest post by DRJ]

The AP reports that the U.S. Marines in Afghanistan are fighting an offensive in the Helmland Helmand River Valley in order to cut off a Taliban supply route. More than half the country’s opium is produced in this area and the Marines also hope their presence will disrupt the opium industry “because militants will no longer be able to intimidate farmers into growing poppy.” In addition, they hope to secure the area enough that other U.S. agencies can come in and help farmers grow wheat and other crops.

It sounds like the Marines may be borrowing tactics used in the Iraqi surge by focusing on earning villagers’ trust as much as fighting the enemy. Unfortunately, that means they will lose some battles — and sadly many American lives have already been lost — but hopefully it will help win the war:

“U.S. Marines trapped Taliban fighters in a residential compound and persuaded the insurgents to allow women and children to leave. The troops then moved in – only to discover that the militants had slipped out, dressed in women’s burqa robes.
“We have dislocated them while still protecting the people,” said Col. Eric Mellinger, the operations officer for the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. “Now the key is to prevent militants from coming back in, and the way to do that is to earn their (Afghan villagers’) trust so that they don’t allow them to come back in.”

A declassified version of the guidelines released by Obama’s new U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, reportedly say the U.S. would “rather see militants escape than for civilians to be harmed in battle.”

I hope the U.S. military can successfully reach out to tribes in the area that are willing to help fight the Taliban and that it leads to alliances that will help stabilize Afghanistan.

UPDATE: A former GTMO detainee who was released to the Afghans in 2007 is the Taliban’s senior military commander and leading the fight against the Marines in the Helmland Helmand Province.


30 Responses to “Marine Offensive in Afghanistan (Updated)”

  1. Anyone ever read Kite Runner?

    It’s a pretty good book that really gets the point across that Afghanistan doesn’t have to be hell.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  2. I have a hard time seeing legitimate crops becoming a winning solution in the short term. Just like in South America the drug growers can always afford to pay more than anyone is willing for normal crops. They just have far more price flexibility. Couple that with the willingness to use violence and it’s not going to be a pretty situation.

    Soronel Haetir (2a5236)

  3. Soronel, hopefully, Afghanistan can be remade into a place where it’s much safer and comfortable to grow legit crops than to grow drugs, so that the potential loss of money still makes sense.

    to get there, a general situation of law enforcement and opportunity has to exist.

    Like you say, though, this is not a pretty situation. There are no easy answers.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  4. Robert Kaplan, in his book about Special Forces, comments that opium poppy eradication is probably misguided. I would think it far less costly and disruptive to simply buy he entire crop every year. It is the raw material for legal narcotics.

    Think outside the box once in a while.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  5. That’s a completely logical and worthwhile option – which means we’ll never consider it.

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  6. I read that Afghanistan makes four times the amount of money off of poppies than what they could possibly make off legal crops. The piece included an interview with a Senator who went on to explain that although there is a current price differential, he noted that with the expectation of there being more than twice as many U.S. troops in Afghanistan by year’s end, the food needed could reap them a significant amount of money and be the start of the changeover. Very speculative.

    In reality, a pat and perhaps short-term solution. He was almost glib in his assessment that the people would jump at the opportunity to forfeit their main source of income.

    If can win the people’s support and effort to push back the Taliban, maybe it could work. I guess it depends how badly the people of Afghanistan want to be in control of themselves.

    Dana (8d88ef)

  7. I have to admit, that is a better idea than any other I’ve heard. It’s not like we can’t use the poppies for something legitimate.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  8. I’m talking about Mike K’s buy the poppies idea.

    Now, we need to remember, there’s more to it than sheer money. If you offered an Iowa farmer double the return for him to grow cocaine, he would refuse. There’s more to it.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  9. If the U.S. bought the poppies, could they then manufacture pain meds, sell them cheaply because of the sheer ,volume and actually in turn end up driving down the costs to consumers? A twofold benefit?

    Dana (8d88ef)

  10. DRJ…I think you have an extra “L” here…”in the Helmland River Valley”.
    It’s the Helmand River Valley in Helmand Province.

    AD - RtR/OS! (17371b)

  11. “That’s a completely logical and worthwhile option – which means we’ll never consider it.”

    Absolutely correct on all three points;
    and, just what part of the bureaucracy would you trust with untold Kg’s of raw opium?

    AD - RtR/OS! (17371b)

  12. Morphine is pretty cheap now. I suspect if the Afghan tribes were offered the price they get from the smugglers with no bombs dropping, they might take the deal.

    We will not do it, of course, because it is too simple and there is little money to be made by various entities that depend on our policies.

    Whoever was reading that Coolidge biography (I can’t recall which thread), if you see this, post the book title. I would like to read something about a logical man for a change.

    Mike K (2cf494)

  13. Better yet, we could just help Afghanistan build some damn medicine factories of their own. Maybe even a pharmaceutical school.

    Juan (bd4b30)

  14. Comment by Mike K — 7/7/2009 @ 2:15 pm

    Again, the smugglers have much greater ability to outbid the government. The smugglers actually want the product, the government would be buying it either to destroy or convert into medications that are already extremely inexpensive for the most part.

    I agree there is value in not being threatened, but in the short term that’s going to be hard to deliver. More money and not getting shot is going to be a tough bargain to refuse.

    Soronel Haetir (2a5236)

  15. Mike K and I agree on something for once.

    Also, it’d really be nice to make headway in Afghanistan, and break that whole “graveyard of empires” curse.

    LYT (cf1265)

  16. I’ve updated the post.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  17. Mike K,

    It was papertiger.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  18. DRJ – You still got the spelling of the province wrong – one “l” in front of the “m.”

    daleyrocks (718861)

  19. This is beyond naive, it’s foolish.

    Larry Reilly (45e7a4)

  20. The troops then moved in – only to discover that the militants had slipped out, dressed in women’s burqa robes.

    Bad news: these particular “militants” got away….for now.

    Good news: these fools can’t help themselves. They’ll have to get back into the fight (willingly or otherwise)–and we’ll be waiting for them.

    Anybody care to wager a sawbuck that at least half of the guys who escaped this time will either be dead, captured, or amputees begging for alms by the end of this year?

    MarkJ (d2394a)

  21. “This is beyond naive, it’s foolish.”

    Noted military strategist Larry Reilly checks in with a meaningless comment. To what does the “This” refer?

    daleyrocks (718861)

  22. daleyrocks,

    It’s just meaningless snark riffing off the same line in the Missile Defense thread. Larry thinks it’s clever, but since it really doesn’t make a point, it’s just more of his childish pap. Ignore him.

    Stashiu3 (3fc50f)

  23. Stahiu3 – I like to point out what an idiot he is for his own benefit.

    daleyrocks (718861)

  24. daleyrocks,

    Re: Helmand. Thanks and I’ll fix it. I’m afraid this will either be something I’ll never forget again or I’ll never get right.

    DRJ (6f3f43)

  25. Mawy is just a little girl, who only comes here to repeat things she’s read on her latest issue of Highlights for Children.

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  26. DRJ – I suspect the list of things that you will never get right is fairly short.

    Did I mention that not only is Teh One the most greatest President EVAH, but he is the single greatest military mind of our generation?

    JD (266c7e)

  27. dmac – I cannot find your email …

    JD (14288f)

  28. JD, I’ll send you an e – mail in a few minutes…still think I have yours in my files.

    Dmac (e6d1c2)

  29. “…but he is the single greatest military mind of our generation?”
    Comment by JD — 7/8/2009 @ 7:00 am

    Not counting one S.Hussein!

    AD - RtR/OS! (685f75)

  30. A Bush detainee release, once again Obama is merely continuing the same policies as Bush.

    I would think insertion of a anal GPS tracking device would be SOP for releasing GITMO detainees.

    Smitty (4d8a5b)

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