Afghan Journal

Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics

Buying off Afghanistan’s “$10 fighters”

January 31, 2010


If you can’t beat the Taliban, buy them out. At last week’s conference in London, Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s Western backers endorsed his latest attempt to lure away low level Taliban fighters with money and jobs,  committing themselves to a $500 million fund to finance the re-integration plan. The logic is that a majority of the Taliban , 70 percent actually according to some estimates, are the so-called “$10 fighters” who do not share the leaders’ intense ideological  motivation. They are driven to the Islamists because they are the only source of livelihood in a war-ravaged nation. So if you offered them an alternative, these rent-a-day foot soldiers can easily be broken.

Quite part from the fact that several such attempts have failed in the past, the whole idea that members of the Taliban are up for sale  just when the  insurgency is at its deadliest is not only unrealistic but also smacks of arrogance, Newsweek magazine notes in an well-argued article.  It quotes Sami Yousoufsai a local journalist “who understands the Taliban as few others do”  as laughing at the idea that the Taliban could be bought over.

“If the leadership, commanders, and sub commanders wanted comfortable lives,  they would have made their deals long ago. Instead they stayed committed to their cause even when they were on the run, with barely a hope of survival,” the article says quoting the journalist.  Now the Taliban are back in action across much of the south, east, and west, the provinces surrounding Kabul, and chunks of the north.”They used to hope they might reach this point in 15 or 20 years. They’ve done it in eight. Many of them see this as proof that God is indeed on their side.”  Indeed one Taliban member reacted angrily to the idea of a buy-out. “You can’t buy my ideology, my religion. It’s an insult,”he said.

At another level, come to think of it, if theirs is a force largely made of rented foot soldiers,  the Taliban have done exceptionally well  taking control of large parts of the country massed against the world’s biggest military powers. Imagine what it would be like if this wasn’t just a $10 a day army as Karzai and his allies paint it to be and instead a proper fighting force.


So why would they defect ? And just how realistic is this ?  The relatively few Taliban who did accept Karzai’s previous offers to return to society live virtually in self-exile in Kabul, afraid to go to their homes in the countryside where the Taliban won’t spare them. Some of those it had spoken to, Newsweek notes, wanted to go  back  to the Taliban,  but they know they won’t be forgiven. So its a real problem, where do the Taliban go, even after Karzai offers them gobs of money. ” They wouldn’t want to live in expensive Kabul, where people on the streets would make fun of their country ways, huge black turbans, and kohl eyeliner. They hate everything that Kabul represents: a sinful place of coed schools, dancing, drinking, music, movies, prostitution, and the accumulation of wealth.”

Breaking an insurgency with money or turning ex-fighters against the insurgents is an old tactic. Indian forces did something similar in Kashmir to weaken the 20-year-revolt, back in the 1990s. They  backed the creation of a force  or the “Ikhwan” , many of them ex-fighters to take on the insurgents. For sometime the pro-government militia  managed to inflict casualties, but it was a force, by the very nature of things, assembled to serve a purpose and then left pretty much to its own fate.. “We are dying  a dog’s death,” I remember one of the members of the militia telling me, as the insurgents helped by intelligence from local villagers picked them off one by one in a matter of a few months. The Indian state, which had backed them earlier, had washed its hands off  by then.

The problem is also how do you trust the Karzai administration, which  barely a few weeks ago, was being pillored for running one of the most corrupt regimes . Tamim Ansary, an Afghan-born American writer, says there are formidable problems luring back the fighters into Afghan society. “First of all, what civil society? Second, who will administer the program? Karzai’s officials? Money is like DMSO to those guys. The moment it gets into their hands, it sinks into their palms. ”

Looked at, in another way, the money may not still not be enough. The plan is to spend $500 million to drain 30,000 fighters from the insurgency over the next five years. That comes to about $17,000 per man or about $3,300 a year. “ Those men could make more than that from drug-thuggery and Talibanist protection rackets,” says Ansary.

Also that kind of money thins out rather quickly as it is distributed across southern Afghanistan. “What happens when some fighter joins the program, gets a bit of money and starts an auto repair shop, but his 25 first cousins don’t? Will they not tar the one guy who profited from the program as a traitor who took foreign money to betray his own,” he says.

That said, it may still be worth a try, given there aren’t many options, Ansary says .Half a billion dollars may sound like a lot to spend on an initiative that will probably achieve, at best, only a little. But compare that to the $30 billion it could cost to sustain an additional 30,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan for one year.


Few options left that worth a try? Definitely.
Hold your breath and think it’ll hopefully work out. Not so much.
The “precondition” is that stability is generally desired and a feasible possibility in the country, which I don’t think is the reality now.
ITN has that point pretty clearly spelled out, with-the-taliban
FOREIGN SEC’TY.: ‘That fund will help ensure the employment, the infrastructure, the organization of a serious drive for political engagement.’
REPORTER: Yet Afghanistan is not a country of stability or structure. In fact, the war is getting worse, and security negligible.”

Posted by Chelsea | Report as abusive

The America Pakistan Enduring Friendship Act of 2010

1)The USA acknowledges Pakistan as a legal nuclear power with full rights to produce nuclear weapons on any platform.

2)The USA will never impose any military, economic, cultural, athletic, transport or social sanctions or any other type of sanction on Pakistan or its citizens.

3)The USA will allow Pakistan to spend up to 75% of all aid money internally within Pakistan, to Pakistani companies – including military aid. (Note – Israel is already accorded this financial mechanism) This will allow the Pakistani economy to achieve self-reliance and grow.

4)The USA will allow Pakistan and its companies to acquire any US civilian or military technology available to Australia or Canada or the Chinese nations or the EU (and/or the UK) or India or Israel or the Russian Federation – without having to undergo any additional requirement. If a technology is available to any one of the above nations, then Pakistan automatically is entitled to the same without further consent of any type – legislative, bureaucratic, judicial, executive or of any other authority in the USA.

5)The USA will not try any Pakistani citizen for any offense. All Pakistani citizens must be extradited to Pakistan to stand trial. The US Government will not hold a Pakistani citizen in custody for more than 48 hours.

6)The USA will immediately impose full sanctions on India for failure to comply with the numerous UN Resolutions on Kashmir. These US sanctions will be comprehensive – including but not limited to military, economic, social, athletic, transport and cultural. These sanctions can not be lifted or waived by any legislative, judicial, bureaucratic or executive order until Kashmir has achieved complete independence from India, with all its territories and lands intact and whole.

7a) The USA will provide US$ 10 billion per year for the next 10 years for education infrastructure in Pakistan – for a total of US$ 100 billion by 2020. This is to compensate for the destruction of the Pakistani educational system in the 1980s by the establishment of “Madrassas” by the CIA to fight the Soviet Union. This educational aid is exclusive of any other civilian or military aid to be provided to Pakistan.

7B) The USA will admit into a minimum of 5,000 new undergraduates and 1,000 new graduate students from Pakistan per year for the next 40 years, until 2050.

8)The USA supports the merger and integration of Afghanistan, as a new province, into Pakistan.

Posted by Zindabad | Report as abusive

You’re out of your mind! LMAO!!!


Running out of idea on how to defeat the Taliban. Guns and high-tech weapons don’t work. Now use the money and hope the Taliban will be cheap enough to leave their struggle.
But sooner or later, the invaders and their stooges in Afghanistan will realise that they cannot win. Slowly and quietly the invaders will leave Afghansitan and abandon their stooges just like najibullah sometimes ago…

Posted by Mutalib | Report as abusive

When will Karzai’s ask us to finance a few BMWs he could offer as raffle prizes to Taliban defectors?

Posted by Whiteathame | Report as abusive

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