New York, Apr 29 (ANI): The United States is increasing its troops in Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul provinces in order to cut off the Taliban's main source of money, Afghanistan's multimillion-dollar opium crop.
The plan to send 20,000 marines and soldiers into these three Afghan 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 New York Times reports.
The Taliban are believed to reap as much as 300 million dollars 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 Brigadier General John Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. "That is why we think he will fight for these areas."
The Americans say that their main goal this summer will be to provide security for the Afghan population, and thereby isolate the insurgents, The NYT reported.
But because the opium is tilled in heavily populated areas, and because the Taliban is spread among the people, the Americans say they will have to break the group's hold on poppy cultivation to be successful.
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. (ANI)