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April 2, 2009 / jeni

This Particular Surge Makes Sense

When it comes to Afghanistan, some things are always going to be tricky — such as, isolating and targeting militants immersed in the civilian population. On the other hand, some policy decisions fall into the realm of the ‘bleeding obvious’ — like, perhaps it’s a good idea to send more than twelve anti-drug agents to the world’s foremost producer of opium.

AP reports:

American authorities are planning a broad new campaign to choke off the prime source of financing for insurgency in Afghanistan, sending in dozens of federal drug enforcement agents to disrupt the country’s massive opium trade and the money that streams to the Taliban.

The surge of narcotics agents, which would boost the number of anti-drug officials inside Afghanistan from a dozen to nearly 80, would bolster a strategy laid out last week by the Obama administration to use US and NATO troops to target “higher level drug lords.” Detailed plans described to members of Congress behind closed doors earlier this month suggest the effort will be modeled after the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s campaign against drug cartels in South America.

Also a good idea? Tackling the flow of drug financing.

The new Afghanistan anti-drug effort will also hone in on money flow, but it will concentrate on the money laundering operations used by drug dealers. The effort will trace both high-tech operations like offshore banking and cell phone transfers and more informal operations like the hard-to-penetrate hawala money-brokering system. Defence officials declined to reveal details of the new Afghanistan programme, and instead met with lawmakers in a closed session to provide additional information.

Some commentators have complained that the new Af-Pak strategy is ‘more of the same’. Steps like these suggest that its implementation will not be.

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