"Three Cups of Tea" author Greg Mortensen has disputed the notion that corruption and insecurity prevent the kind of basic development which would address what is well-known now as the raw fuel for the Afghan insurgency: hunger, starvation, and economic misery which keeps the ranks of the Taliban filled, who courtesy of the American taxpayer as well as the opium trade is able to pay fighters the excellent wage of ten-dollars-a-day. Mortensen says the question is not whether five-dollar-a-day jobs building war-torn infrastructure can be created, which young men would jump at, but whether it is done correctly.
“Aid can be done anywhere, including where Taliban are. But it’s imperative the elders are consulted, and that the development staff is all local, with no foreigners.”
Stating it even more bluntly lest anyone miss his point Mortensen says:
"The conventional wisdom is that education and development are impossible in insecure parts of Afghanistan that the Taliban control. That view is wrong."
Now the former Afghan Defense Attache who has worked closely with Coalition forces has affirmed that at $100 billion a year, we are spending way too much money to obtain terrible results, namely earned hatred, instability, and danger to our national security. Violating the preferred narrative that the insurgency is based on a mysterious and pathogenic movement's drive to take over the country, M. Ashraf Haidari, former Deputy Ambassador and Defense Attaché of the Embassy of Afghanistan wrote to the New York Times:
If at least half of $100 billion were invested in state-building to deliver basic services to a destitute nation and to spur sustainable economic growth to give one in 5 Afghans a job, the insurgency would automatically be weakened and ultimately defeated.
Haidari's estimate is an extreme highball probably meant to present an opening gambit in the U.S.'s search for a way out of the Central Asian quagmire, of which Defense Secretary Robert Gates just said:
"any Defense Secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined."
This remark by the official most in charge of the war, next to the president, should rank as the equivalent of Walter Cronkhite's famous pronouncement which marked the beginning of the end of the Vietnam War that the war was "now unwinnable."
Projections estimate that if even ten percent of the cost of military operations were put towardprograms that work in the country still racked with 50 percent malnutrition among children 10 years after the overthrow of the Taliban, 50 percent unemployment, the highest infant mortality rate in the world, and a road and water infrastructure still in shambles, the insurgency would melt. The reason is the Taliban is not popular and never was, outside of a hardcore cadre of madrassa graduates from Pashtun Pakistan, which were financed by the Pakistani ISI secret service in the 80's and 90's. This was Pakistan's hedge bet for influence in its northern flank, where it can afford no hostile governments if it is to be able to carry out its primary Jihad, with India.
H.E. Haidari says:
The cost of all boots on the ground has gone up to over $100 billion a year. Compare this to about $3 billion in civilian aid to Afghanistan , some 80% of which bypasses the Afghan government. Since 2001, this massive imbalance has accounted for Afghanistan ’s cumulative weak governance and a lack of work opportunities for its youthful population, over 60% of whom are below 25.
At a million per soldier per year, according to the Pentagon's own estimates, it is clear that GOP Republicans as well as Democrats who continue to vote for war funding are forcing workers in places like Wisconsin to fight over relative crumbs. To understand the magnitude of money being wasted on the war, at a million per soldier, you could put 150 of them on planes home and the Wisconsin "budget crisis" is solved.
Why isn't it happening? Why are we actually paying money to the Taliban to not attack military supply convoys, thus strengthening the very element the Pentagon is saying it does not want to take over? Double Medal of Honor winner Marine Corp General Smedley Butlersaid it best when he said, many years ago:
"A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small 'inside' group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."
"War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives."
Butler retired from his distinguished Marine Corp career to travel the country speaking and giving out his booklet "War is a Racket," to warn Americans as loudly as he could of what he had glimpsed while he was on the inside, as "high class muscle man for Big Business...a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism."
"Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents."
General Butler's words reach out from beyond his grave every day, as we read passages such as this from Wall Street newsletters likeInvestingDaily.com in "How to profit from the war in Afghanistan":
"The Afghanistan troop surge means profits!...the likelihood that the U.S. will end up the loser in Afghanistan is a long-term worry. In the short-term, military contractors doing business in Afghanistan will make a boatload of money..."
We are fighting over crumbs, people. And some folks are probably have a pretty good time watching.
Troops need to start leaving Afghanistan now, with targeted assistance of the kind Mortensen and Haidari describe being implemented as a form of reparations for being treated as a pawn in an international game for 30 years, a time in which millions of Afghans starved. If it is not to fall prey to multinationals eager to exploit its mineral wealth, these resources should be nationalized until fair contracts can be written, which prioritizes good jobs for Afghan labor and technical training. Al Qaeda will not return. Most Afghans hate Al Qaeda, who are considered outsiders. And in Afghanistan when you are hated, you soon find yourself on the losing end of a good old fashioned firefight with the cousins. This will not happen, however, until Afghan civil society is strengthened to the point where it can chose its friends.
Come to think of it, didn't that bin Laden feller get his start from the CIA/ISI too?
If your congressman is NOT on the following list, he or she is part of the block which keeps voting to fund the war. Your congressman can change his or her position by becoming a co-sponsor of Rep. Barbara Lee's H.R.780. ""Responsible End to the War in Afghanistan Act," which ends all funding for military operations in Afghanistan except for those necessary to effect an orderly withdrawal.
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The author is co-founder of Jobs for Afghans.
Misery in Afghanistan, why Taliban ten bucks a day looks pretty good