Can We Buy Our Way Out Of The Afghanistan Conflict?

Can We Buy Our Way Out Of The Afghanistan Conflict?


It’s a little known fact that one of the big reasons Iraq turned around is we simply offered a better price than al Qaeda. Within a month the word got out that we were paying top dollar and the insurgents were turning against the terrorists and the US body count started to drop.

Will the same strategy work elsewhere?

From the Times Online:

Afghans are known for changing sides back and forth during their long years of war — there is an old saying that “you can rent an Afghan but never buy one” — and battles have often been decided by defections rather than combat.

Paying Taliban foot-soldiers to switch sides could spare US lives and save money, say its advocates. A recent report by the Senate foreign relations committee estimated the Taliban fighting strength at 15,000, of whom only 5% are committed idealogues while 70% fight for money — the so-called $10-a-day Taliban. Doubling this to win them over would cost just $300,000 a day, compared with the $165m a day the United States is spending fighting the war.

And here’s a bit about a what we did in Iraq…

The tactic was used to good effect in Iraq where the US government put 100,000 Sunni gunmen on its payroll for about $300 a month each.

Some disagree that this strategy will work without more troops, but a refocusing of priorities along with paying people to not kill us will do the trick. Afghans are like anybody else…they want to be able to provide for their families and if somebody is offering a better deal, they’ll go with the best price in town. This isn’t a holy war even though the Taliban would like to convince everybody it is.

More as it develops…

  • kranky kritter

    It’s about lots of things. IMO, it’s not NOT about religion. But as you imply, people act along the lines of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s about food, clothing, and shelter for most people before it’s about philosophy or spirituality. Thus really shouldn’t surprise anyone.

    It feels sort of inflammatory to me to describe providing resources to Afghans as “buying our way out of it.”

    Providing resources obviously must be part of the equation, and it’snot especially useful to put money into a separate category from other resources like food, infrastructure, and so on.

    I’ve stated my skepticism on the possibility of success in Afghanistan before. But if we are to succeed there, we must inject resources along with fostering a stable and sustainable environment that can endure after we leave and after we stop supporting Afghanis and their economy and government. Give a man a fish… . Even if you undertake to teach a man to fish, he must eat while he is learning, no?

    So no, we can’t JUST buy our way out of it. But yes, we must expend substantial resources of various types, including cash, if we want to succeed.

  • http://sidewaysmencken.blogspot michael reynolds

    Give a man a fish…

    Or as they say in Afghanistan: Give a man opium and he’s high for a day; teach a man to grow opium and he makes a living.

  • Nick Benjamin

    “Buy our way out of it”?

    That’s a huge oversimplification of what happened in Iraq. There AQ would murder bunch of Shi’as, some Shi’a militiamen would take revenge on random Sunnis. And the only criminals the government was serious about going after were AQ because the government was dependent on support from the parties that created the Shi’a militias.

    The money helped, by showing we were serious about protecting innocent Sunis, but it was by no means the only part of the strategy.

    But I’m actually surprised McChrystal isn’t already doing this. Heck I’m pretty surprised the warlords aren’t doing it.

    One of our major advantages is money. Compared to the Taliban the Pentagon budget is unlimited. It seems pretty foolish for us to not take advantage of that.

  • Chris

    I said that from the very beginning, just drop a trillion dollars on Iraq and we never would’ve needed to send troops in. (you get the idea)

    But then the industrial-military complex never would’ve been able to make billions of dollars off of killing people.

  • Agnostick

    We offered a better price than AQ while we were there. What is happening, as we begin evacuating certain areas? NPR just happens to have a story on this.

    If I understand it correctly, the natives are loyal to us when we pay them; when we leave, they go to work for the next-highest bidder, which in the case of Iraq is turning out to be the tribal leaders. Is “tribal leader” just another way of saying “warlord?” Could we end up with something that resembles Somalia, when it’s all over? What happens if/when a tribal leader buys into AQ?

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  • blackoutyears

    I don’t see the part of this discussion which concerns the lack of any legitimate gov’t or reliable indigenous peacekeeping force. Money isn’t going to solve those problems. Karzai is a punchline.

  • Nick Benjamin

    Bribing the Taliban to form pro-US militias wouldn’t solve the Karzai problem, but it would certainly create a force we could rely on.

    Karzai will require a different solution. Perhaps a runoff administered directly by the UN?