Through extortion and taxation, the Taliban are believed to reap as much as $300 million 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. NYTimes
The Marine's BG Nicholson is thinking along the right lines: “There is a significant portion of the enemy that we believe we can peel off with incentives... We can hire away many of these young men.”
- Replace. Become the primary buyer of the crops at the local level. Slowly ease the farmers into alternative crops at subsidized prices (this is MUCH less expensive than the current massive US troop deployment).
- Divide. Anoint local militias with the ability to produce opium as long as violence is low and the money stays local. Divide the groups based on levels of greed vs. fanaticism.