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US/Afghan Begin Plan To Buy Off Taliban

From their allies at the New York Times:

Afghans Offer Jobs to Taliban Rank and File if They Defect

By DEXTER FILKINS

November 28, 2009

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — The American-backed campaign to persuade legions of Taliban gunmen to stop fighting got under way here recently, in an ornate palace filled with Afghan tribal leaders and one very large former warlord leading the way.

“O.K., I want you guys to go out there and persuade the Taliban to sit down and talk,” Gul Agha Shirzai, the governor of Nangarhar Province, told a group of 25 tribal leaders from four eastern provinces. In a previous incarnation, Mr. Shirzai was the American-picked governor of Kandahar Province after the Taliban fell in 2001.

“Do whatever you have to do,” the rotund Mr. Shirzai told the assembled elders. “I’ll back you up.”

After about two hours of talking, Mr. Shirzai and the tribal elders rose, left for their respective provinces and promised to start turning the enemy.

The meeting is part of a battlefield push to lure local fighters and commanders away from the Taliban by offering them jobs in development projects that Afghan tribal leaders help select, paid by the American military and the Afghan government.

By enlisting the tribal leaders to help choose the development projects, the Americans also hope to help strengthen both the Afghan government and the Pashtun tribal networks.

These efforts are focusing on rank-and-file Taliban; while there are some efforts under way to negotiate with the leaders of the main insurgent groups, neither American nor Afghan officials have much faith that those talks will succeed soon.

Afghanistan has a long history of fighters switching sides — sometimes more than once. Still, efforts so far to persuade large numbers of Taliban fighters to give up have been less than a complete success. To date, about 9,000 insurgents have turned in their weapons and agreed to abide by the Afghan Constitution, said Muhammad Akram Khapalwak, the chief administrator for the Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kabul.

But in an impoverished country ruined by 30 years of war, tribal leaders said that many more insurgents would happily put down their guns if there was something more worthwhile to do.

“Most of the Taliban in my area are young men who need jobs,” said Hajji Fazul Rahim, a leader of the Abdulrahimzai tribe, which spans three eastern provinces. “We just need to make them busy. If we give them work, we can weaken the Taliban.”

In the Jalalabad program, tribal elders would reach out to Taliban commanders to press them to change sides. The commanders and their fighters then would be offered jobs created by local development programs…

The Americans say they have no plans to give cash to local Taliban commanders. They say they would rather give them jobs.

In a defense appropriations bill recently approved by Congress, lawmakers set aside $1.3 billion for a program known by its acronym, CERP, a discretionary fund for American officers. Ordinarily, CERP money is used for development projects, but the language in the bill says officers can use the money to support the “reintegration into Afghan society” of those who have given up fighting

Remember when we laughed when Mr. Karzai tried this approach?

Those were the days.

Giving the Taliban money is not going to change their outlook on jihad.

But it will help fund them.

This article was posted by Steve on Saturday, November 28th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

4 Responses to “US/Afghan Begin Plan To Buy Off Taliban”

  1. crosspatch says:

    “Giving the Taliban money is not going to change their outlook on jihad.

    But it will help fund them.”

    Well, that is sort of true and sort of not true. The Taliban leadership are not going to be swayed by money, that is probably true. But the rank and file, the individual men in the villages who are recruited by the Taliban may be. The Taliban uses money to recruit and to intimidate and to control. Giving these men jobs and putting them to work providing for their own infrastructure gives them some investment in building a community and makes it more likely they will act to resist the destruction of it.

    What I am not getting is what they are going to pay these men to do. One thing that irritates me is the apparently lack of priority of the power production at the dam in Kandahar. Most of Afghanistan has no electricity. It is pretty much like the US in the 1920’s. You can not build a cement plant or a grain elevator with modern drying facilities or pretty much anything else without a source of energy. Afghanistan produces a tiny amount of oil and does have some coal bed gas resources. They do have coal. In the 1990’s they were producing about 100,000 short tons of coal a year and that is down to 1,000 tons/year now.

    You can not (as mentioned above) make cement to make anything without energy so without energy all the cement must be imported. You can not build water purification, distribution, and waste treatment without electricity to pump that water around. Nearly 30% of US electricity use is for the moving of water around and treating it on both ends of the cycle. Afghanistan has no electricity. Most of the coal beds are in the relatively stable areas of the North-central part of the country. In order to have anything for these men to do, you must first get energy production up in order to start building. I believe the priorities should be:

    1. Get the coal mines operating again and begin to build power plants and provide distribution to the rural areas. Sort of like a Rural Electrification Administration for Afghanistan. Then you can begin to build water treatment and distribution and infrastructure support industry such as cement kilns.

    2. Get the hydro power production working and begin branching out distribution from there. The Kandahar dam would be a major portion of that. Maybe the creation of a hydro system in a valley somewhere in central Afghanistan could be like a TVA project in the US.

    So you initially take men from the South, put them to work in central Afghanistan as miners. This gets them sending money back home to their families. Once power reaches the villages, they have something to buy with that money and can begin to have clean water supplies, indoor plumbing, waste water treatment and can then be brought into the 20th century (we can worry about the 21st century later). Then you can also begin to build railways and recruiting people to build tunnels and bridges. Just getting basic infrastructure installed could cause a major economic boom there.

    But it all relies on energy production. Without coal and hydro, we are simply pushing a rope.

  2. proreason says:

    Just like in America, in a child’s world view, Afghanistan’s problems are apparently all due to rich white men.

    So over here, you spend trillions in give-aways and it gets you 98% of the vote of your fellow children.

    I can see how he would think it can work over there as well.

    But how does 400 bucks stack up against 79 virgins?

  3. Chuckk says:

    In the USA we have given the disaffected trillions of dollars over the years. What good has it done? They resent the country more than ever.

  4. mr_bill says:

    I don’t see any way this could possibly go wrong and bite us in the rear. /end sarcasm


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