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Thread: Afghanistan exit strategy: Buying off the Taliban?

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default Afghanistan exit strategy: Buying off the Taliban?

    An Afghanistan Exit Strategy: Buy Off Taliban Members? - TIME

    By measure both of blood and of treasure, the war in Afghanistan is a costly business. To date, 782 U.S. troops have been killed there, and the conflict is costing Washington $4 billion a month. Is that a good investment? Some suggest it may be far more cost-effective to simply pay those currently earning their keep as gunmen for the Taliban to stay out of the fight.
    The notion may have gained more traction Thursday, Aug. 13, after a reporter asked Defense Secretary Robert Gates how much longer U.S. troops will have to keep fighting in the now eight-year-old Afghan war. Gates, recalling his years as a top CIA official, said the war's end date is one of those national-security "mysteries" for which there are "too many variables to predict." (See pictures of the new U.S. offensive in Afghanistan.)
    Uncertainties are unavoidable in war, of course. One of them is the exact number of bad guys in Afghanistan, many of whom are paid to fight, and just how much their paymasters are spending on them. But a new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week says U.S. commanders commonly refer to the "$10 Taliban" — alluding to the amount insurgents earn each day from Taliban coffers swelled by drug proceeds and Islamist benefactors. That's more than an Afghan cop makes. "They can collect double or triple pay for planting an improvised explosive device," the report adds. So how many fighters are on the Taliban payroll? Earlier this year during a visit to Washington, Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Afghanistan's Interior Minister, estimated there are between 10,000 and 15,000 Taliban fighting his government and its U.S. allies.
    That makes a quick cost-benefit analysis possible. While plainly some Taliban members are an ideologically committed hard core who won't lay down their guns, a lot — perhaps most — would presumably stop attacking U.S. and allied forces if they could earn more from that than they currently do for fighting. Vice President Joe Biden has estimated that only 5% of those fighting for the Taliban are "incorrigible, not susceptible to anything other than being defeated," while 70% are in it only for the money. The remaining 25%, he said, fall in between. So if the U.S. opted to pay all Taliban fighters $20 a day — double what they get now — to stop fighting, that would amount to a $300,000 daily bill, or one-fifth of 1% of the war's current cost to the U.S. taxpayers of $133 million a day. The monthly cost of buying off the Taliban rank and file would be $9 million, less than the price of a single AH-64 Apache helicopter.
    "The U.S. could put all the Taliban fighters on its payroll at twice the daily rate [that they earn in the insurgency], withdraw all [American] forces except those needed to guard the paymasters, and buy the insurgency at less cost than maintaining forces, Burger King, Popeye's, defense contractors and Nautilus equipment in Bagram [the key U.S. military base in Afghanistan]", writes John McCreary, a former senior Pentagon intelligence analyst. "If the Taliban can buy fighters," he writes in his daily intel blog NightWatch, "the U.S. should be able to outbid the Taliban for the same men."
    It's not as far-fetched as it sounds. As McCreary explains, the U.S. military did something very similar in Iraq, paying as many as 100,000 Sunni insurgents $300 a month to stop fighting. That worked out to about $1 million a day — the price of a single mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle (MRAP). The U.S. has shipped more than 10,000 MRAPs to Iraq and Afghanistan — making clear just how much of a bargain the U.S. got when it bought off much of Iraq's insurgency.

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    Elite Member Wiseguy's Avatar
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    Jan 2009


    An interesting article. We definitely need an exit strategy as Afghanistan is a war we can't win. Every Afghan leader of the 20th century was either assassinated, deposed or lynched. There is basically nil economic activity aside from international aide and the production of illegal narcotics. There are no plausible political parties.

    In Obama's speech, it sounded very positive and stirring with a very broad definition of how to achieve counter terrorism. He described the border region as the "most dangerous place in the world" with an optimism that it can be transformed. Good luck in achieving these goals - building a state, defeating the Taliban, defeating al-Qaeda and eliminating poverty. It is not our moral obligation to do this and it is impossible for the US, Britain and its allies to build an Afghan state. It can only come from an Afghan movement, not as a gift from foreigners.

    I think we need to significantly reduce the troops in Afghanistan and just focus them on counter terrorism. If Afghanistan turns itself around, it will not be through foreign troop involvement, but will be from the Afghans themselves.

    The Taliban is very unlikely to take over Afghanistan as a whole. It is no longer seen by young students as angels saving the country from corruption. Millions of Afghans hate its brutality, incompetence and primitive attitudes. The Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek populations are wealthier, more established and way more powerful than they were in 1996. They would strongly resist any attempt by the Taliban to occupy their areas.

    Obama's approach is nothing new and will achieve nothing but more money being thrown at useless objectives.

    We should get out of Afghanistan and focus on Pakistan. Here are the reasons why this should happen

    * Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, not Afghanistan.

    * Terrorits like bin Laden prefer Pakistan as it is more aggressive in its state sovereignty and strongly restricts US operations.

    * Pakistan has a nuclear bomb. Afghanistan doesn't.

    * Pakistan has the ability to destabilize India.

    * Pakistan is 50 times more important than Afghanistan, but we are putting 50 times more money and resources into Afghanistan.

    We definitely need an exit strategy. But I think it should be a dramatic decrease in troop numbers to focus on counter terrorism (rather than rebuilding the country) rather than spending more money that will go nowhere.
    Last edited by Wiseguy; August 16th, 2009 at 08:26 AM.

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