Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Financing The Taliban

This isn't so much a surprise as it is just disturbing:

KABUL — It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.

Virtually every major project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents. Call it protection money, call it extortion, or, as the Taliban themselves prefer to term it, “spoils of war,” the fact remains that international donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy...

“In the past there was a kind of feeling that the money all came from drugs in Afghanistan,” said Holbrooke, according to media reports. “That is simply not true.”

The manager of an Afghan firm with lucrative construction contracts with the U.S. government builds in a minimum of 20 percent for the Taliban in his cost estimates. The manager, who will not speak openly, has told friends privately that he makes in the neighborhood of $1 million per month. Out of this, $200,000 is siphoned off for the insurgents.
As I've said before, I'm not at all sure what role the United States should be playing in Afghanistan at this point and I'm fairly uncomfortable with President Obama's plans to double-down the war effort there. I hate to admit this but it seems just as bad an idea as Bush deciding to go into Iraq. The Afghan people are fiercely nationalistic and have pretty much outfought and outlasted every country that has tried to occupy and pacify them in the past, regardless of their intentions. Our policy of continuing to try to hold that country together just seems like another quagmire that we should be avoiding, given how much each of those two countries have cost us in lives and treasure over the last six years. That said, I still think that this suggestion is a pretty good idea but I'm not holding my breath.

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