Taliban: The True Story of the Worlds Most Feared Fighting Force
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Any negotiated settlement -- I think -- it was a great mistake of the Bonn peace process back in was that the regional partners were not really consulted or included in the peace talks in the settlement that saw the establishment of the [Hamid] Karzai government in the first place.
Why is the United States military still there?
And we are coming up now for another major settlement, when NATO finally leaves. The mistake that we made last time must not be repeated. We must include the regional partners, and of course you must include Pakistan. Pakistan does need to have a say in what happens after NATO leaves. If the West tries to exclude Pakistan, they will find ways to make sure that they are still influential, because they have such a huge stake in all of this. They created the Taliban in order to create strategic depth. The reason that it's there is to do with India -- the many decades-long paranoia, many people would say, about India.
How do you counter a much more powerful enemy to the south? The answer is you create a friendly regime to your west in Afghanistan -- it's somewhere that you can retreat to. So they are not going to give up easily.
Pakistan has to be part of the solution when it comes. Do you think Baradar's release would persuade the Taliban to participate in the coming political process? Fergusson: What really matters in all this is what Mullah Omar thinks. He remains the supreme leader, the figurehead of the Taliban. Unless, he decides to go for the elections wholeheartedly, then I think nothing is going to happen. He will have some influence. But he has been out of the game for three years; the war has been going on for all of that time without him.
What fate will the country meet as the international forces are pulling out of the country? Myself, I am afraid, I am rather more cynical at that. I suspect they will not last terribly long. The casualty figures coming from Helmand that the ANA is suffering at the moment are dreadful.
I saw that ANA had lost in one month more soldiers than the British lost in four years down there. And that kind of casualties can make it quite hard for any army to sustain. And when you look back at what happened to the Afghan National army or its equivalent after the Soviets left, they lasted a year or two but eventually just kind of collapsed.
And I am afraid that as the money runs out the financing and actually the air support for the ANA, the ANA may well go the same way as its counterpart did after the Soviet invasion My view on this is that Taliban are going to be part of this government. The Taliban is not a modernistic organization. There are hard-liners within it who would like to take over the country for themselves, but there are others who are more moderate, more practical, who see that there is a necessity now to share power, particularly with the non-Pashtuns, the Hazaras, and in the north, because they have to.
Obama was upbeat in his June address announcing a gradual end to the U.
And that things were getting worse, not better. But Taliban-controlled territory was now home to at least a dozen other terrorist groups with international aspirations.
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Much of the money went to pay for weapons, explosives, soldiers for hire and bribes to corrupt government officials. At a June summit, the clan leaders gathered secretly to approve another alliance — with the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan at the time, according to classified U. The ties were solidified further when the U.
In the early years of the U. That willingness to overlook drug trafficking was assisted by their belief that the drugs were going almost entirely to Asia and Europe.
But a lot of Afghan heroin was also coming into the United States, indirectly, including through Canada and Mexico, according to DEA, Justice Department and congressional officials and documents. Over time, growing numbers of Americans addicted to legally prescribed opioids were finding an alternative in the ample, but often deadly, narcotics supply on the streets.
Even as the body counts mounted in Afghanistan, few Americans associated the war with growing opioid death and addiction rates in the U. Lawmakers spent billions of taxpayer dollars annually on both the U. But they earmarked just a tiny percentage of that for DEA efforts to counter the drug networks bankrolling the increasingly destructive attacks on both of them, records and interviews show. As a result, as of , the DEA deployed no more than 10 agents, two intelligence analysts and one support staff member in the entire country.
Another mission was to train Afghan authorities in the nuts and bolts of counternarcotics work so that they could take on the drug networks themselves. Over the next three years, as the U. Even after the U. Afghan prosecutors, with help from the DEA and the Justice Department, were putting away 90 percent of those charged with narcotics crimes. Washington was coming to the realization that the Kabul government lacked the institutional capacity and the political will to take on the top drug lords, according to Rand Beers, who held a top anti-narcotics position in the George W.
Bush administration. Lucrative bribes had compromised police and government officials from the precinct level to the inner circle of U. That meant the more senior that suspected drug traffickers were, the less successful U. As had been the case in Colombia, the drug kingpins were overseeing what had become vertically integrated international criminal conglomerates that generated billions of dollars in illicit annual proceeds.
That made them, effectively, too big for their home government to confront. The only criminal justice system willing and able to handle such networks was the one in the United States. By then, the U. Justice Department had indicted and prosecuted significant kingpins from Mexico, Thailand and, beginning in , dozens of FARC commanders and drug lords from Colombia.
It began embedding specially trained and equipped drug agents in military units, to start developing cases against the heads of the trafficking networks. It also worked closely with specially vetted Afghan counternarcotics agents. These Afghans were chosen by DEA agents for their courage, experience and incorruptibility, and then polygraphed and monitored to keep them honest. Together, the vetted Afghans and their DEA mentors established a countrywide network of informants and undercover operatives that penetrated deeply into the transnational syndicates.
The crown jewel of that effort was a closely guarded electronic intercept program, in which DEA agents showed their Afghan counterparts how to obtain court-approved warrants and develop the technical skills needed to eavesdrop on communications. DEA agents also worked with a special Sensitive Investigative Unit to map the drug, terror and corruption networks. As the insurgency grew and became more costly to sustain, that evidence began to show the Taliban methodically assuming a more direct operational role in the drug trade, pushing out middlemen and extracting more profit — and money for the war effort — at every step of the process.
All of the evidence was admissible in courts in Kabul and the United States. And it led agents straight to the top of the Taliban leadership — including its one-eyed supreme commander, Mullah Mohammad Omar, according to documents and interviews. By the end of the Bush administration, the Justice Department had indicted four top Afghan drug lords, who were ultimately captured and flown stateside or lured there under pretense, then prosecuted and convicted.
That March, the DEA announced the most ambitious overseas deployment surge in its year history — a six-fold increase of agents from 13 to Many people in and out of the government feared that targeting those at the apex of the drug trade could backfire in a place like Afghanistan, where it often meant taking on tribal leaders with armies of fighters, tanks and even missiles at their disposal, recalled Kenneth Katzman, a senior analyst on Afghanistan issues for the Congressional Research Service, the independent research arm of Congress.
You try to arrest someone like [that] and you are going to have a rebellion on your hands. We were pulling them in from everywhere, and bringing them over in waves. After completing several months of special operations training, new agents hit the ground running, sweeping through fortified drug compounds as allied military forces provided cover fire.
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The agents seized and cataloged as evidence multi-ton caches of narcotics, as well as stockpiles of Taliban weapons found, increasingly, alongside them. In November , three DEA agents and seven American soldiers were killed when their helicopter crashed after a particularly intense drug raid in western Afghanistan. For the tight-knit and fast-growing DEA team in country, the fight against the Taliban was, from that point on, an intensely personal one.
So-called FAST teams — for foreign-deployed advisory support — brought Afghan drug agents to the front lines of the drug war, including Helmand Province, the epicenter of both the drug trade and the insurgency. On June 22, , Obama formally announced a September drawdown date for almost all U. So Marsac proposed a legal Hail Mary of sorts: one giant U. In January , he assembled a team to review the mountains of evidence in DEA vaults to see whether it supported such a prosecution. One especially potent advantage of such an approach was that evidence gathered against each defendant could be used to strengthen the overall conspiracy case against all of them.