“Buying” Time in Afghanistan, U.S. Adopts Taliban Tactics

The U.S. wants to pay Afghans to support the U.S.-backed government, battle insurgents, and, oh yeah, torch the home of anyone harboring the Taliban fighters.

Have we not heard of this approach before from our Taliban brethren?

Not only have Afghans agreed to this sweet deal (with U.S. forces), but one of the largest Pashtun tribes has signed on. Tribal elders have committed at least one military age male to the Afghan army or police if attacked by the Taliban. (Not exactly sure how that will work out. But the thought is there.)

Details aside, it is said the 400,000 member Shinwari tribe has declared war on the Taliban. Tribal leaders say the Taliban has been more trouble than it’s worth taking the tribes’ money and absconding with fighting-age males. The Taliban also is said to be killing the Shinwari people. But, now, with a million bucks on the table they seem ready to take a stand. (What were they willing to do in the absence of U.S. money? That seems important.)

The money will come directly to deal-making tribal leaders in the form of development projects, bypassing local Afghan officials. While this bold move gives the U.S. street cred in the short term it reinforces the belief that the Afghan government is corrupt, which it is, but the U.S. is enabling circumvention of the central government, which, oh, yeah, it is paying the Afghan tribes to support.

The “When in Rome” philosophy seems to have captivated the hopes of U.S. officials, but a million dollars is a little more than two dollars per tribal member. The money could buy time, and it is hoped the Taliban will be forced to the negotiating table. Our guess is the Taliban is planning its next step.

There is a bigger plan: As the U.S. works with the tribes, the Karzai government will woo Taliban fighters back into the fold. Woo? Pay! The Afghan government is targeting low- and mid-level Taliban with no real ideological ties. Many of these foot soldiers have nothing to do and need the money.

The move seems bold and cheaper than an all-out war in the area, but what are the prospects for the long term? Will there be a recognized central government or will tribes reign supreme over their lands as the Western-style government slinks back across the border?

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