The challenge is how to arouse tribal leaders interests in cooperating with US forces.
Cash handouts can cause showy displays of new money purchases that can ruin the value of an informant. Weapons gifts can easily end up in the wrong hands. So what's an anti-insurgency US military officer to do when faced with over-60 year old tribal leaders with three or four wives?
For some CIA operatives, the growing solution is to pass out the little blue pills-- Viagra.
The Washington Post" describes a recent example of Viagra diplomacy;
"The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.
Four blue pills. Viagra.
"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.
The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes -- followed by a request for more pills."
Historically, the KGB has been the spy agency with the proclivity for using sex to buy information and cooperation. THe US has used medical treatment, even offering heart bypass surgery to potential informants. Perhaps they've learned from evangelical medical missions which go to underdeveloped countries offering dental and health care in exchange for sitting through sermons and listening to preaching.
But in Afghanistan, the goal is cooperation. The trick is to know who to offer it to and how, as the WaPo reports,
"You didn't hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones," said one retired operative familiar with the drug's use in Afghanistan. Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives -- the maximum number allowed by the Koran -- and aging village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could "put them back in an authoritative position," the official said."
The challenge in Afghanistan, as it is in Iraq, is to identify local tribal leaders who control areas where US troops want to either quiet things down or gain access to roads and trails they need to pass by. Some of these leaders are either neutral or soft allies. The trick is to get a rise in their loyalty and cooperation. This can involve the need for some very sensitive foreplay. The WaPo described how the clan leader mentioned above was moved from a soft ally to firm supporter.
"...the man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans -- neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.What's next, tribal chieftain free penile pump implants and free breast implant surgery for selected tribal chieftan wives? The fact is, should we consider this approach to "diplomacy" in the same vein as waterboarding and "whatever-it-takes" strategies. Perhaps Viagra really is a perfect example of what today's America stands for, at least to the people running things today. And perhaps these CIA agents really think they are offering the best of what America has to offer.
After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.
Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.
"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "
"And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."