Saturday, June 13, 2009
Our fact-finding mission has convinced us that our central contention is as true as ever. The war in Afghanistan is driven primarily by economics and a 40% unemployment rate, not ideology or any overwhelming hatred of Americans. The Taliban pays $8 a day to its insurgent fighters, and too often it's the only job in town. The old quip is true here: you might not like the work, but that's who is hiring.
There are a small number of Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders who dispense money to a large number of recruits and egg them into attacks. When a U.S. forces unit is spotted in an outpost and an attack is organized, fighters start coming in from surrounding districts to participate mostly because they want the paycheck. They
don't like being occupied, but extremely few Afghans want to see the Taliban return to power. There is desperation here not reported in the West: one out of five infants dies of malnutrition or dirty water by the age of five, and literal starvation has been reported as recently as 2008.
I met a man who was a Mujihadeen against the Soviets when they invaded, then grew his beard and became a Taliban commander when the Taliban took over, then cut his beard and is thinking of joining the ANA for the paycheck now. I was told his story is not unusual. Whoever is in power and can give them a paying job, that's where they will go. With major reconstruction assistance and a works program centered around jobs which pay $5 a day, this war is a tragedy which can be avoided. The entire cost of such a program would amount to only ten percent of what Congress is intending to spend on the military occupation, which will buy only more civilian casualties and a real rise in anti-American sentiment.
It didn't matter whom we talked to, former Mujihadeed, former Taliban, Afghan government officials, ISAF command staff, or Special Forces soldiers. The degree of consensus that lack of jobs was at the core of the insurgency was remarkable. Please call, fax, and email the "Leaning No's" and "Undecideds" on this list of Congress to say "Troops Out Now, Jobs in for Peace in Afghanistan." Leave an weekend voicemail, find the phone numbers here.
Posted by Ralph Lopez at 2:06 PM