Stopping the crimes financing the terrorists won't defeat terrorist organizations. However, focused counter-crime operations will crimp their finances and, to use a term I heard a police counter-terror officer use, "pressurize" the terrorists' environment. Petraeus' "Anaconda Strategy" in Iraq employs a number of anti-crime measures and anti-corruption measures, each one applying pressure to a terrorist organization.
The Taliban tried a similar cell phone tower extortion racket, but it backfired. StrategyPage reported on June 15 that the Taliban were expanding "their extortion campaign, demanding that businesses pay 'protection money' to avoid being attacked" and an effort by the Taliban "to control cell phone use has quickly evolved into just another extortion campaign."
In several rural areas in Afghanistan, the Taliban launched a campaign to shut down cell phone service at night. However, tribes in the area (who are often pro-Taliban) wanted "the cell phone service in order to stay in touch with friends, family and the few government services that are available." The Taliban attacks angered the tribes, which "demanded that night service be restored. It was. But then, noting that there were several cell phone companies operating in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban went to the different companies and offered not only 'protection,' but damage to a competitor, for a price."
There is a case to be made that the Taliban's strategic depth isn't Pakistani territory. Sure, tribal connections protect the Taliban, but money powers the organization, and increasingly that money comes from criminal enterprise and specifically the opium trade.
Austin Bay is the author of three novels. His third novel, The Wrong Side of Brightness, was published by Putnam/Jove in June 2003. He has also co-authored four non-fiction books, to include A Quick and Dirty Guide to War: Third Edition (with James Dunnigan, Morrow, 1996).
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