See also: Taliban attack biggest NATO base in Afghanistan (Telegraph)
TALIBAN rebels are earning a bounty of up to 200,000 Pakistani rupees (£1,660) for each Nato soldier they kill, according to insurgent commanders.
The money is said to come from protection rackets, taxes imposed on opium farmers, donors in the Gulf states who channel money through Dubai and from the senior Taliban leadership in Pakistan.
So far this year 213 Nato soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including 41 British troops, bringing the potential rewards for the Taliban to £350,000.
Taliban commanders said the bounty had more than doubled since the beginning of last year.
The insurgents, who employ “hit and run” tactics against foot patrols and convoys, use paid informants, media reports and the local population to confirm the deaths of Nato soldiers.
“We can’t lie to our commanders: they can check to see if there was a fight in that area. We get money if we capture equipment too. A gun can fetch $1,000 [£690],” said a commander from Khost province who controls about 60 fighters.
The money usually reaches commanders via the traditional hawala transfer system found in many Muslim countries. They then share it among their men and sometimes celebrate with a feast.
“It’s a lot of money for us. We don’t care if we kill foreigners: their blood allows us to feed our families and the more we kill, the more we weaken them. Of course we are going to celebrate this,” said a commander from Ghazni province.
The increase in rewards for Taliban fighters comes as the Afghan government prepares to present its strategy for ending the insurgency. This aims to lure less senior insurgents away from the fighting by offering them jobs in farming and engineering, vocational training in carpet weaving and carpentry, education and assimilation into the Afghan security forces, including the secret police.
President Hamid Karzai hopes that a peace jirga (tribal council) in Kabul next weekend will rally support for this peace and reintegration programme (PRP).
The PRP says little about the government’s approach to negotiations with senior Taliban, but suggests that exile in a third country is one option.
“We are weary of war and division and we have shed too many tears. Out of division let us build unity,” says the draft strategy. In January a conference in London attended by the Afghan government and its international backers raised £110m to fund the reintegration strategy.
Insurgents who are willing to lay down their weapons and join the government will undergo a 90-day cooling off period in “demobilisation centres”, where they will be vetted and given biometric identity cards.
After that they will be granted amnesty provided they sever any links with AlQaeda and renounce violence. Fighters will be sent to “deradicalisation” classes taught by mullahs and for psychological counselling and psychiatric treatment.
The government’s proposals have received a mixed reaction from Taliban commanders, who are referred to as “our upset brothers” in the draft.
“I think our leaders are trying to find ways to counter the government’s proposals. The extra cash [bounties] will encourage more people to join us and will get inactive groups to fight,” said a deputy district commander from Kandahar.
A minority said they would be willing to surrender their weapons in return for jobs. “But the government and international community should know that they can’t solve the problem by giving jobs only to us fighters. They must consider all the poor people; otherwise those who don’t get jobs will take up arms,” warned a low-level commander from Ghazni who said he had joined the Taliban four years ago to feed his family.
Most Taliban commanders deny any financial motive. In a dozen interviews over the past four months, low and midlevel Taliban commanders from provinces where the insurgency is fierce have set out their conditions for ending the violence.
“We are not fighting for money or power. We are fighting to end government corruption, to rid this country of foreign troops, and we want a return to sharia law,” said a Kandahar commander.
Nato’s reintegration group in Kabul acknowledges the insurgency is driven by local factors: inept governance, predatory politics, malign and manipulative power brokers, poverty and tribal feuding. “There will always be the hard core that will continue fighting for ideological reasons but there’s an awful lot of people who are tired of fighting and who we can bring in,” Major-General Phil Jones, the unit’s British commander, said.
Some analysts believe reintegration fails to address the underlying causes of the insurgency in thousands of villages that are among the worst afflicted. “Reintegration addresses the symptoms rather than the disease itself,” said Matt Waldman, a Harvard analyst.
•Several Nato soldiers were injured yesterday when insurgents fired rockets at Kandahar airfield, the Alliance’s main military base in southern Afghanistan, writes Richard Beeston in Kandahar.
May 23, 2010
Source: The Sunday Times
More on the war on terror:
– US special forces soldiers dug bullets out of their victims’ bodies in the bloody aftermath of a botched night raid, then washed the wounds with alcohol before lying to their superiors about what happened
– Obama: ‘I will promise you this, that if we have not gotten our troops out by the time I am President, it is the first thing I will do. I will get our troops home. We will bring an end to this war. You can take that to the bank.’ (!)
Murray asserts that the primary motivation for US and British military involvement in central Asia has to do with large natural gas deposits in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. As evidence, he points to the plans to build a natural gas pipeline through Afghanistan that would allow Western oil companies to avoid Russia and Iran when transporting natural gas out of the region.
Murray alleged that in the late 1990s the Uzbek ambassador to the US met with then-Texas Governor George W. Bush to discuss a pipeline for the region, and out of that meeting came agreements that would see Texas-based Enron gain the rights to Uzbekistan’s natural gas deposits, while oil company Unocal worked on developing the Trans-Afghanistan pipeline.
“The consultant who was organizing this for Unocal was a certain Mr. Karzai, who is now president of Afghanistan,” Murray noted.
“There are designs of this pipeline, and if you look at the deployment of US forces in Afghanistan, as against other NATO country forces in Afghanistan, you’ll see that undoubtedly the US forces are positioned to guard the pipeline route. It’s what it’s about. It’s about money, it’s about oil, it’s not about democracy.”
“I have lost understanding of and confidence in the strategic purposes of the United States’ presence in Afghanistan,” he wrote Sept. 10 in a four-page letter to the department’s head of personnel. “I have doubts and reservations about our current strategy and planned future strategy, but my resignation is based not upon how we are pursuing this war, but why and to what end.”
“I’m not much for this war. I’m not sure it’s worth all those lives lost,” said Sergeant Christian Richardson as we walked across corn fields that will soon be ploughed up to plant a spring crop of opium poppy.
Opium production rate has soared to 6,900 tons in Afghanistan in the past 10 years ‘despite‘ the presence of 100,000 foreign troops in the country for nearly eight years.
A report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime said on Wednesday that Afghanistan produces 92 percent of the world’s opium that has devastating global consequences.
The UN report also noted that Afghanistan’s illegal opium production is worth 65 billion dollars.
The heroin and opium market feeds 15 million addicts, with Europe, Russia and Iran consuming half the supply, UNODC reported.
– Top US commander in Afghanistan: The Taliban have gained the upper hand:
The Taliban have gained the upper hand in Afghanistan, the top American commander there said, forcing the U.S. to change its strategy in the eight-year-old conflict by increasing the number of troops in heavily populated areas like the volatile southern city of Kandahar, the insurgency’s spiritual home. Gen. Stanley McChrystal warned that means U.S. casualties, already running at record levels, will remain high for months to come.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal)