"It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.
Virtually every major project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents. Call it protection money, call it extortion, or, as the Taliban themselves prefer to term it, “spoils of war,” the fact remains that international donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy."
“Everyone knows this is going on,” said one U.S. Embassy official, speaking privately. Mckenzie
Someone commented in these sacred pages a few days ago to the effect that it was not reasonable to expect the American People to accept the folkways of foreigners just because they were their folkways. No? Well, here is a "folkway" that will probably be rather hard to "swallow."
This reminds me of the way the Comanche and Kiowa used to go to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma in the 19th Century and ask for ammunition so that they could continue their war against "The Texans" (a non-American people in the eyes of the Indians) in the next fighting season. Ammunition, reservation beef, and other supplies were what they wanted. One of the Kiowa chiefs, Kicking Bird, I think, once demanded to be issued the Indian Wars campaign medal with the appropriate seasonal clasp. He said that without his men the war could not be held.
It's all a matter of perspective.
I am not surprised. I suggest that it will be impossible to halt this practise. They will find a way to do it. I understand that the Taliban are "hitting up" local Afghan businessmen and saying that it is "zakat." Lovely.
I further suggest that we find a way to turn the practise to our advantage. Can't figure that out? Work on it. pl
OK, I’ll play the riddle game.
My guess: pay them off with chocolate that is really Ex-Lax.
Also..do you mean USAID or US aid or perhaps foreign aid?
It seems to me that USAID is hardly the only payer…I mean, player.
You don’t know what USAID is?
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.
Isn’t USAID the United States Agency for International Aid? (Everyone needs international aid from the US, except if you’re an American). I think it is a block or two from USDA in DC.
Sorry. USAID=United States Agency for International Development. Lots of money for that International Development, even in Afghanistan.
Anyone who does not know what USAID is, sign off the net. You don’t belong here. pl
yes, i know what USAID is.
why else would i inquire as to whether you meant USAID or something else?
John Masters, in “Bugles and a Tiger” talked about fighting the tribes on the NW Frontier, and how they would come to the local Political Officer and apply for the same campaign ribbon the British forces were getting.
Idiotic. Don’t waste my time.
At this rate the Taliban will soon be nothing more than another K street special interest, living off the dole. If it worked for Kicking Bird and Lockheed Martin, why not for the Taliban?
Oh, the national interest, you say? I defy you to ask anyone in a position of authority in Washington to clearly define that and get an honest answer!!! (It all depends on who is financing the campaign that day.)
So after the Taliban’s cut comes the government’s (Afghans are federalist, so many layers), local warlord’s (also many layers for tribes, local militias, etc), and then comes the American’s contractor’s cut…so much is really helping to rebuild Afghanistan?
Can we even afford USAID in our current economic and deficit conditions?
UASAID = CIA in NGO disguise.
So yeas, they could be used to find of the people who demand Zakat.
But that would not make sure that these people are indeed Taliban. They may be just local strongman who set up a road block to make a living.
Kill them and create more enemies …
Also, as I understand, most USAID projects are simply contracted out to this or that company. The companies will continue to pay Zakat as for them it is a business cost and much cheaper than having the trucks burned.
I also doubt a bit that the USAID projects are the big Zakat bringer. The “road toll” the logistic transports, also contracted out, for the U.S. military are paying is likely much higher.
Two ideas, for discussion and evisceration:
1. Use less cash: The Taliban are able to run these rackets because we are paying in cash. Maybe use our social scientists on the ground there to devise a locally appropriate barter system. The Taliban would take their cut too, but the end result wouldn’t be as valuable to them.
2. The ‘Taliban’ are really hundreds (thousands) different groups, many of which are, shall we say, less than pure in their beliefs. Therefore the strongmen who are running these rackets are the ones most able to be bought off. So, use intelligence on who precisely is doing this, and then the US can pay them to at least not attack us, and if possible to attack their more ‘pure’ comrades.
good lord, do you mean to tell me that we are not handing out medals for the bodies of foreign terrorists?
No disbursements of 50 cal. heavy machine guns with sexy, really heavy tripods etc? (50 cal may be too light — need a really heavy round not available locally.) No boxes of flash grenades with imperial logo harking back to the war against Alexander the Great?
Dedicate a couple of drones and give the tribal chieftains video feeds. Let them fortify their hamlets against all outside forces.
If the leaders want schools, let them build them. USAID etc is completely counterproductive in this situation.
Well, it might be a good idea to make it clear to Taliban that in return for their cut we get dead AQ… particularly mangy Arabs but mangy Uzbeks, Uighers, and others will do also.
Ahmed Rashid, a Pak who writes extensively on Afghanistan, has a piece in WAPO which has some useful elements despite some COIN-ism and seeming conflation of AQ and Taliban.
For all the billions we have wasted there, where is the electricity? the potable water? the roads? infrastructure? etc. The basic security and economic benefit for the CAPITAL city of Kabul and the Valley around it, let alone other areas?
Tucked into the piece:
1) “The retreating Afghan Taliban was welcomed in Pakistan in 2001 and is still tolerated there because of a certain logic put forward by the Pakistan army that mainly involves containing India’s growing power in the region and in Afghanistan in particular.”
We can also ask to what degree is Taliban officered and advised by “retired” or “rogue” Pak military?…
2. “Without a partner, the United States becomes nothing but an occupying force that Afghans will resist and NATO will not want to support.”
Yes and, logically, if Karzai comes out on top then he is the partner in the real world and we need to get used to that.
I further suggest that we find a way to turn the practise to our advantage.
Now that’s a tough one to crack. This proposal made me think of that senior NCO I spoke with a few months ago on his return trip from over there. They were using a neat little trick to flush out who was who by using certain types of local aid. Suffice to say, without going into details, if the locals were willing to accept the aid with a few stipulations attached, they were most likely “good guys.” That left everyone else as suspect.
In this case, I’m thinking of two approaches. Either use the money as a trace to pinpoint these leaders, or somehow make our pile of cash more enticing to these middlemen than the relatively measly little sums they get from skimming off the top.
Actually, mix the two methods. If these middlemen really want to make some big piles of cash, we pay them to help us trace the money back to the “bad guys.”
These middlemen may not realize what really, really big money looks like. We can make their eyes pop out, and sell us their souls for what are basically pennies to us.
And I’m being completely serious about this, not sarcastic.
One of my colleagues grew up in Kabul, in a big family where dad worked as a agricultural specialist for USAID back in the 1960’s. The single thing that she mentions most often about life in Kabul is the custom of baksheesh, i.e., the bribes paid to anyone and everyone for anything and everything.
The more things change, the more they stay the same…
Ahmed Rashid is hugely knowledgeable and respected. However, India’s ‘growing power’ is more or less non-existent in Afghanistan. A little road-building, a hospital, yes; ‘power’ very doubtful. Indian music, both pop and semi-classical, fantasy soaps on Indian TV channels; yes, Afghans lap these up. Power? We’d have all heard a lot more from Pakistan if there was.
Just to put that bit in perspective.
With or without USAID the Taliban and cohort will not allow long term occupation [this is aside of Al Q]. The Cost to USA is just too great.
Whether Mr. Obama is pursing this war of USA’s attrition due to personal conviction, or due to the fact he wishes to appease the NEOCONS – I tried, but the money has ran out; the end result will be the same, sooner or later [sooner I think] Afganistan will have another Status Agreement a la Iraq and the NATO Cabal will depart.
Make it a condition to only award contracts to the contractors/tribal chiefs/sheikhs who bring in the heads of HVTs.
There was a civil affairs officer in Iraq who did that. He didn’t collect the heads literally in the Alfredo Garcia sense, but the same effect.
You want this $1 miilion road contract, Saidi? Give us “Abu Mohammed” or leave the body where it can be found.
I guess this is the something like what CWZ said, but more “high concept.”
I agree with Col. Lang – there is no other way for US or anyone else to operate there without doing this.
This indicates that neither Taliban nor Al Qaeda nor Pakistan are the main subject of concern of US strategic thinkers. Per Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar at Asia Times (www.atimes.com) US is going for durable power projection in Central Asia.
This explains US indulgence of ISI and harboring of various neo-Salafi extremists by Pakistan. At the same time, some group of people within the Pakistani state still seems to think that the Afghan game is worth the chips – it seems to me.
I asked a South Asian friend the other day what it was like in Afghanistan prior to the 1979 Soviet invasion. He told me that the golden age of Afghanistan was probably from the mid-1960s through the late 1970s. The King understood how to deal with the ethnic divisions (Pushtun, Tajik, Uzbek). He encouraged his offsprings to marry into leading families of these other ethnic groups (the King was Pushtun). So a certain form of representation and mutual interest was established under the monarchy. When Daoud came in to power, he modernized things somewhat, creating better education, building some roads, and making some other institutional changes that were bringing Afghanistan society forward, “Afghan style.” No skyscrapers adorning Kabul, but the place was a good trading cross-road, producing agricultural products, etc.
For the past 30 years, the country has been devastated, because one foreign occupier after another has tried to impose their rule on the country. With the rise of the Taliban, is it possible to quickly return to the relative bliss of the 60s and 70s? Probably not, but by removing the big factor of foreign occupation, which is what drives the Afghans to war, as has been the case for 2,000 years, things would eventually improve–especially if we came in with some serious assistance to rebuild the place.
I agree with Col. Lang that a smaller force, backing up a counter-terror program that is not out trying to win the hearts and minds of the villagers, but is targeting the “deck of cards” (as in Iraq) of the really bad guys, including the leading drug traffickers (not the farmers), would satisfy our urge to stay until we “win,” while recognizining a little bit of the reality of that part of the world.
Thirty five years after we left Vietnam, none of the dominos fell, Southeast Asia is not a communist hotbed, so maybe some of the rationale for our building up our troop presence and hunkering down for the long haul, is not quite as rational as the neocons and some COIN lovers in the military seem to think
Green Zone Cafe:
Israel tried this with Hamas, did not gain anything. The Hydra has too many heads, and they regenerate the missing ones. Easiest solution [and saves US/NATO lives and treasures] is to get out as soon as logistically possible.
Aside from the above, referring to USA allies who were discarded on minute’s notice, see the USA pay off for fealty to Sadam, Noriega, etc.
Decapitation of a national liberation movement is a difficult thing to do for the reason you describe, but the takfiri jihadis are not such a movement. I would not seek to end such an historic phenomenon, only to disrupt it. pl
Too bad those Kiowas and Comanches didn’t kill all those Texans. They were right. The Texans want to be non-Americans
It is odd that these Indians made this distinction. They seemed to think that even though they had their own problems with the US Army (Ranald Mackenzie et al), the Army would share their dislike of Texans. pl
Davoud Khan was, unlike his cousin King Muhammad Zahir Shah, was not a unifier but a divider.
He attempted, foolishly in my opinion, to cast Afghanistan into a Pashtun mould thus alienating the non-Pashtuns.
The King, in his person, had unified Afghanistan – just like the Habsburg King in Austro-Hungarian Empire.
Once the Kingship and the Kingdom were dissolved there were no longer any theoretical or institutional basis for the continuation of a unitary state for all these various ethnic groups that had historically been herded into a state through kingly/dynastic conquest.
I am not sure that even if all foreigners leave Afghanistan alone that state will survive as a unitary state for long.
With respect I agree that A Q is not the main issue in Afganistan [not withstandiong the Offical BS], and I do not have any opposition to their confinement, disruption, etc.
Conversely, with respect I suggest that Predator attacks where civilians are killed [present data 90% civilian] or bombing raids as two days ago [dangerous good trucks blown up by incidentary ammunition , causing numerous civilian casualties] are prima facie WAR CRIMES committed by the operator of the offensive unit and all the commenders above who authorized such.
It is only neo-cons and idiots who think that you can win insurrection by bombing the presumed opponent – often the info is bad to start with, e.g weddings, intertribal blood feud “resolved by USA bombs” etc. The only minds that these idiotic exercizes help is the warmongers, who all working for the financial collapse of the USA – also known as TREASONOUS ACTIONS – I maintian
Perhaps we could have this aid labeled as ‘zakat’ and run it all through a different channel rather than use the Western corporate/NGO model?
Just a footnote to your ‘Golden Age of Afghanistan’.
In that period Europeans used to drive overland to Delhi (India) in their RVs from France, Germany, etc, through Iran and Afghanistan. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed driving through A-stan.