Counter-Terrorism: The Roads To Victory

 

Pakistan has undertaken an ambitious effort to build roads in the tribal territories. Ostensibly done for military reasons, to make it easier to get troops to areas where Islamic terror groups (especially the Taliban) like to hide out, there is also an economic benefit. Many farmers and herders in the tribal territories know that they can get higher prices for their crops and animals if they had a cost-effective way to move the goods. The roads make the farmers and herders wealthier. The Taliban don’t like this, because one thing the country folk can buy is more guns, and trucks. This makes the non-radical tribesmen better able to defend themselves from the Taliban. Currently, the Islamic radicals use their militias to extort cash and services (meals and somewhere to live) from rural villagers. The wealthier tribes, usually because they have access to roads, can resist the Taliban. But in the roadless backcountry the Taliban tend to get their way.

The Pakistani army not only supplies road building equipment, in addition to that brought in by contractors, but they also provide armed guards. The Pakistanis are pretty certain the roads strategy will work, because they have been watching it work in neighboring Afghanistan. NATO and U.S. forces have been big on building roads in Afghanistan. Not just to make it easier to get around, but also to make Afghans wealthier. Many parts of Afghanistan produce valuable produce, and there are many unexploited natural resources under the ground. But if you can’t get the exotic fruits, or valuable ores, out of the country, you stay poor. Most Afghans want more roads, especially paved roads. The latter are also more difficult to use mines and buried bombs on. The Taliban do not want roads. Not just because it makes it easier for government or foreign troops to get around, but also because roads bring new ideas, as well as wealth. The Taliban are content to get rich off the heroin trade, and keep new ideas out by attacking road building projects. Protecting the road builders has become a major military operation, and potentially a decisive one.

Counter-Terrorism: The Roads To Victory

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