Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dollars Down Range

As I said often during the Iraq War, we don't have to kill every last insurgent to win the war in Afghanistan.

We'll try to take out a lot of the enemy with dollars:

On the eve of today's summit in London on the future of Afghanistan, sources told The Daily Telegraph that they hoped to be able to "reintegrate" half the estimated 25,000 Taliban fighters with promises of new jobs.

The aim is to "divide the insurgency" with the military continuing to pursue the "hard-core Taliban", but sources say eventually they hope that even Mullah Mohammad Omar, the movement's leader, will be part of the peace process.

If we make it easier to kill the remaining Taliban, the Taliban who are bought will have a more difficult time returning to the fight since they will be more outnumbered if the hard core are killed or driven off.

UPDATE: Strategypage writes of the divisions withing "the Taliban" that will aid this policy of stripping away some of our enemies with money rather than bullets:

The Taliban is in danger of being negotiated to death. Many older Taliban leaders, who ran Afghanistan until the end of 2001, and operating in Pakistani exile, are tired of the endless violence, and the growing dependence on heroin and al Qaeda to keep the Taliban war going. There is a growing lack of unity in the Taliban movement. The organization was always fragmented, but now you have mutually antagonistic factions (pro-drug, pro-al Qaeda, pro-"no foreigners or drugs", and so on).

Plus, as I argued in the Iraq War, however our casualties are on personal terms, they are not militarily significant in that they could cause the defeat of our forces. We can grow tired of fighting and go home--but we won't be driven from Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Further, all that talk of Taliban control with "shadow governments" is blown out of proportion:

Since the Taliban cannot defend territory, they seek to maintain some control via terror. This includes threatening local officials (both government and tribal) with kidnapping or murder. When they can afford it, the Taliban will obtain this control with bribes.

However unpleasant it is to have government officials bought or intimidated to some extent by the enemy, this "shadow" influence is still just a shadow. I'd rather have control of the governing institutions with the enemy influencing the officials, than the other way around. Would our press and war critics speak of our effective control if we were merely undermining the control of enemy officials in charge of the apparatus of the state?
Let's not overstate the problems we face even as we recognize this is a real fight with a determined enemy. Our enemies have worse problems.

With dollars and bombs, and the bravery and skill of our military pesonnel, we'll beat our enemies. If we don't beat ourselves, that is.