Taliban for sale?


by Ralph Peters [author, novelist]

A highlight of this week’s “what do we do about Afghanistan?” conference in London will be the announcement of a $500-million program to bribe low-level Taliban fighters to quit.

I’m all for any program that prevents a single IED attack on our troops, but the hoopla attending this hail-Mary play reflects our stubborn refusal to understand the enemy. In the ninth year of a war, we still don’t want to know why the other guy fights.

The assumption behind this program is that three-quarters of the Taliban fight for money or because of small-time grievances. There’s zero serious data behind that belief. The assumption suits us, so we rig the intel.

After almost a decade of open warfare with Islamist militants, thousands of global terror attacks in the name of Allah and even deadly Muslim turncoats in our military, we continue to deny that our enemies might be fighting for their faith — or, in the Taliban’s case, for faith, tribe, tradition and territory.

Nope, we’re convinced it’s about the lack of jobs. Well, sorry — the Taliban aren’t the Teamsters.

Two weeks ago, we got another cutting lesson in why aid programs won’t turn the tide in Afghanistan: Valiant US Marines had spent months pacifying parts of Helmand Province; they believed they were making progress — then, in a blink, the local people turned.

All it took was a bogus rumor that our troops had desecrated a Koran. Thousands of furious Afghans rioted in the Garmsir bazaar, a commercial hub. Their confrontation with Afghan security forces turned deadly. Eight rioters gave their lives because they believed a Koran had been abused.

The locals had never staged a protest over the lack of jobs or the need for aid. But they were willing to die for their holy book.

Shouldn’t that tell us something about how Afghans think?

These weren’t hardcore Taliban fighters (although the Taliban may have started the rumor). They were the villagers we insist we’re saving.

We’re doing exactly what we did in Vietnam, where we refused to see that the communists’ program had more appeal to rural residents of an unjust society than the corrupt Saigon government did. We knew what those villagers really wanted . . .

Of course, religion isn’t the sole motivator for the Taliban (although it adds the fanatic zest that stuns us). On another level, these are hillbillies who just don’t want the revenuers — any revenuers — coming up their hollow.

Plus, in the eyes of their supporters, they’re also patriots. They represent a cherished (if unfathomable to us) way of life. And — again, like the Viet Cong — they offer swifter and more reliable justice than Hamid Karzai’s Kabul grab-ocracy.

Do some young Taliban foot soldiers fight for money? Probably. But not the majority. Nobody endures that level of suffering and sacrifice for payment alone.

Our latest well-intentioned program also fails to con- sider its potential impact on Afghan security force recruitment and retention: If ill-treated Afghan privates serving under disinterested officers see that anyone claiming to be a repentant Taliban fighter gets a job and a land-grant, wouldn’t it make more sense to go Taliban for a while?

Meanwhile, our “valued ally” Pakistan protects the worst elements of the Taliban, tells begging-for-help US officials to kiss off, refuses to police its own territory and incites its citizens against us while pocketing our money.

If we can’t buy the leaders of one of the world’s most corrupt states with a flood of aid plus a $7.5 billion sweetener, how do we expect to make tribesmen turn from their duty to their faith for the promise of 40 acres and a mule?

Nor does it help when oblivious Western “experts” insist that the Taliban don’t represent “true Islam.” Who are we to say? The oppressive variant of Islam that grew up in Afghanistan’s valleys over the centuries is every bit as valid as any other.

And it works for the locals. When will we figure that out?

The ease with which senators are bought on Capitol Hill has blinded us to the not-for-sale quality of men ablaze with religious zeal fighting for their land and way of life. Our generals need to ask themselves one question: If you were an Afghan tribesman, which side would you be on? ExileStreet

NY Post / copyright 2010 NY Post

Ralph Peters new novel, “The War After Armageddon,” is on the street. He is Fox News’ strategic analyst. His most recent book is “Looking For Trouble: Adventures in a Broken World.”

Peters is a retired Army officer and the author of 19 books, as well as of hundreds of essays and articles, written both under his own name and as Owen Parry. He is a frequent columnist for the New York Post and other publications.

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