Afghanistan — Taliban in Financial Trouble, General Says

WASHINGTON, Sept. 2, 2010 — The insur­gency in south­west­ern Afghanistan is down to its “last card in the deck,” the top mil­i­tary com­man­der in the region said today, cit­ing Tal­iban cash flow prob­lems and man­ning issues.

A blight that impact­ed last year’s pop­py har­vest and gov­ern­ment ini­tia­tives in Hel­mand province to encour­age growth of oth­er crops have left insur­gents there with “less than one-half of what they had last year in oper­at­ing funds,” Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Richard P. Mills told Pen­ta­gon reporters dur­ing a video news con­fer­ence from his Afghanistan head­quar­ters.

Gov­ern­ment pro­grams have helped cut down pop­py pro­duc­tion local­ly, while coali­tion efforts are inter­dict­ing the “rat lines” the insur­gents use to smug­gle mon­ey and weapons in and hero­in out, Mills explained.

Such efforts, he said, have “sig­nif­i­cant­ly dis­rupt­ed” the Taliban’s sup­ply sys­tem and has adverse­ly impact­ed recruit­ing.

Those fac­tors “sig­nif­i­cant­ly deprive the insur­gency of the mon­ey they so des­per­ate­ly need to oper­ate,” Mills said.

In Mar­ja, a farm­ing town in Hel­mand known for being a long-time insur­gent strong­hold, Tal­iban forces are strug­gling to hold their ground, Mills said. Mar­ja was sim­ply a “drug cen­ter,” he said, and with­out pop­py the Tal­iban have noth­ing to offer local res­i­dents.

The Tal­iban, Mills said, are des­per­ate and are using scare tac­tics and threats in an attempt to cow the local pop­u­lace. But res­i­dents, he said, are fight­ing back and reject­ing Tal­iban ideals.

The Taliban’s “last card in the deck is not play­ing very well, which is sim­ply mur­der and intim­i­da­tion,” the gen­er­al said. “It has not con­vinced the peo­ple of Mar­ja. They are look­ing at a bet­ter way of life.”

How­ev­er, U.S. Marines remain engaged in a tough fight in Mar­ja, and Tal­iban forces won’t give up eas­i­ly, he said.

[Mar­ja] was his trea­sury; he can’t give that up,” Mills said of the Taliban’s desire to retain Mar­ja. “He gives that up, and he can’t afford to con­duct the insur­gency. He can’t give up Mar­ja with­out a fight, and he has­n’t.”

Insur­gents have turned to hit-and-run tac­tics to con­serve their forces and ammu­ni­tion, Mills said, not­ing the num­ber of impro­vised explo­sive devices being used against his troops is few­er now than last spring. Also, IEDs are becom­ing less sophis­ti­cat­ed, he added.

Mean­while, Afghan army and police are becom­ing more and more capa­ble, Mills said, not­ing he’s impressed with their abil­i­ties and efforts. Recruit­ing for and train­ing of Afghan forces, he added, is going well, and their over­all progress is at the right pace.

Turn­ing back to Mar­ja, Mills called the cam­paign there a work in progress.

I’m very proud of the progress we’ve made there, but we still have a ways to go,” he said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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