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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 1/27/10

John Kerry Won't Call Me Back About Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish Afghan Policy

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The lead in the US Army Times says:

"A new initiative to persuade low- and mid-level Afghan insurgents to lay down their weapons and rejoin society is already bearing fruit and holds great promise for the future, say senior officials in the NATO coalition."

The military now understands that insurgents are aching for a way to put down their arms and re-join society. Will American political leaders see that they are being penny-wise and pound-foolish? For lack of what we spend on the military occupation every 2 weeks, this insurgency could be deflated and American troops could be on their way home sooner rather than later.

In addition to precious lives, the war is now costing us, according to General Barry McCaffrey, about $9 billion a month, which he called the war's "burn rate."

That would pay for a Cadillac health plan for every American, OR a Maserati green jobs program, OR a $100 billion reduction of the deficit each year. Which is better depends on your political leanings. It could be split among all three. With war, no one's getting any of it, except for military contractors.

The Army Times reports:

"Though the Afghanistan "reintegration" initiative is only now getting off the ground, hundreds of insurgents have taken advantage of it and many others are waiting for the Afghan government and the coalition to announce the specifics of the reintegration plan, said Maj. Gen. Mike Flynn,the director of intelligence for the International Security Assistance Force."

One young fighter actually came down the mountain on his own to ask if there were any jobs, so he could give up, along with his 50 fighters. Most likely mostly brothers and cousins. They would take work and relocation to just quit. They didn't want cash payments, they wanted jobs, and the dignity of work, any work. The Army Times writes:

"Coalition officials have monitored insurgents talking about the reintegration effort...The essence of the conversations is that the insurgents want to know what the finished reintegration plan will be,"

NATO and the Afghan government have found out that most Afghan insurgents are economically desperate young men who fight for the Taliban wage, and that they can be brought in from the cold with simple jobs which benefit their communities, and a modicum of vocational training. They don't want to be Taliban. They want to learn to be carpenters, and bricklayers. Hence the new Afghan Reintegration initiative which will be discussed at the London Conference on Afghanistan tomorrow, Thursday. The Conference may be NATO's last chance to get it right.

The Army Times:

The [reintegration] initiative is based on the strong belief at ISAF headquarters that most insurgents are not ideologically committed to their leaders' aims and would be willing to quit fighting under the right conditions. "What we're finding is the dissatisfied, disenfranchised, traumatized folks who are the ones who are the foot soldiers for the ideologues or the radical folks ... often find themselves in a position where if they need to take care of their family, the only way to do that is to implant IEDs or to fire shots at the coalition," said Col. John Agoglia, director of the counterinsurgency training center here. "A majority of these folks, if given the means to provide for themselves and their family, will very easily lay down their weapons."

Here is the problem. The current initiative aims only at Taliban fighters laying down their arms, not the rest of the fighting-age males suffering from 40 percent unemployment. For the amount the US spends in less than two weeks on military operations, about $4 billion, a program can be put in place which will put to work those who have NOT joined the Taliban. Otherwise, this could be perceived as rewarding folks who did join the Taliban, to the exclusion of those who "said no."

The administrative apparatus would be the National Solidarity Plan, which has been widely hailed by players across the board, from the US military to Afghan civil society. It may be the one part of the Karzai government which actually works.

What about jobs for Americans rather than Afghans? News flash: Any funding for your job programs are going down the toilet of war. $100 billion per year, remember? According to McCaffrey's estimated "burn rate." Not spending four dollars to save one hundred dollars is called penny-wise and pound-foolish.

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Ralph Lopez majored in Economics and Political Science at Yale University. He writes for Truth Out, Alternet, Consortium News, Op-Ed News, and other Internet media. He reported from Afghanistan in 2009 and produced a short documentary film on (more...)

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