One of the strange contradictions that we’ve seen in our Afghanistan and Iraq policy is that many of the most vocal supporters of the war have been Republicans and alleged conservatives who hate big government yet enthusiastically endorse massive entitlement and social programs for the citizens of the two countries we’re currently occupying and nation building. Programs not only for citizens, but citizens who are trying to kill us, and have killed us. The 2010 defense bill contains CERP provisions to permit “commanders [in Afghanistan] to pay insurgent fighters to switch sides,” writes Greg Grant on DoDBuzz.com.
Universal healthcare bad. Regular U.S. tax dollar handouts to Taliban, good. A welfare policy for insurgents. As a former military official emailed me recently: “Our troops now deploy with stacks of hard cash to pay off the enemy.”
However, we’re not the only folks who like to keep Afghan insurgents on the dole. From Grant’s Q&A with Rick Nelson, a senior fellow a CSIS:
Q: The Taliban and other Afghan insurgents groups receive money from wealthy Arabs, particularly from the Gulf states. Since there appears to be a market incentive to some insurgent activity, how can the U.S. stop the flow of money into Taliban coffers and how important is stopping the financing to insurgent operations?
Unfortunately, the U.S. remains quite limited in its ability to stop these illicit flows. This fact suggests that we are never likely to completely defeat the Taliban…The very fact that the insurgency receives most of its funding from abroad suggests that at least some regional actors may be bankrolling the Taliban as a convenient way to bleed American power rather than to prop up an Islamist government. Under this scenario, a large-scale U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan merely serves to fuel the insurgency.
In this case, the Obama administration might consider how to reach a political settlement with certain, reconcilable elements of the Taliban. Such an agreement would require insurgents to lay down their arms in exchange for U.S. and NATO troop reductions. The U.S. would also make clear that it will not tolerate Taliban collusion with al Qaeda. Given these assurances, U.S. forces could refocus their efforts on combating al Qaeda—the original purpose of our invasion eight years ago.