Sunday, October 11, 2009

Hooray For Bribery.

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.

This seems like a thoroughly good idea, bribery gets a bad reputation but in a war there is nothing wrong with it. The Colombian civil war is being won by the government partly because they are offering the FARC foot soldiers money to come in from the cold. If many of the Afghans are fighting for money then it is shameful that the USA and Europe are being outbid by a bunch of cave dwellers for whom the goat considered a form of high technology.

Update: In the comments Mark points to this, which is advocating a similar strategy but not calling it bribery.


James Higham said...

Rent an Afghan - that's rather good really.

Ross said...

Indeed, who wouldn't want an Afghan for the day.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Apparently Osama bought up the whole country for something like $75 million, which seems dirt cheap.

A better plan would be to start sourcing opiates from Afghanistan of course and tell the Tasmanians to get knotted.

Ross said...

"A better plan would be to start sourcing opiates from Afghanistan "


Mark said...

Anatol Lieven has often, rightly, advocated bribery as a political tool in those parts of the world perenially at the bottom of the Transparency International league table. His latest article on the subject (co-written with Pakistani diplomat Maleeha Lodhi) is available here-

It's the best briefing on the current quagmire that I've come across recently, and suggests that bribery aimed at non Pushtun Afghans ('massive long-term military aid' is the code used here) can be used as a stick as well as a carrot.

Ross said...

Mark, that's good. I'll update the post to link to that.