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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 5/8/09

A Really Stupid, Unnecessary War

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Ralph Lopez
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Leave it to the people at the International Center for War and Peace Reporting to get the story straight from the horse's mouth, proof that a huge number of Talibaners in Afghanistan are fighting only for the wage it pays, and are practically begging for us to give them some other way to feed their chronically malnourished children.  At the risk of life (you know what happens to journalists around here) reporters like Fetrat Zerak interview junior "Taliban" like Abdullah Jan, who fights for the $4 a day the Talib pay him to participate in attacks.  Before you criticize, consider what you would do if your children were starving. The report tells us:

Jan is a Taliban for only a few hours per week. Other than that, he goes about his business like any other citizen. He has no gun or any other equipment that marks him as an insurgent, and he does not consider himself to be one.

"I am just fighting for the money," he said. "If I find another job, I'll leave this one as soon as possible."

What the congressmen and the media don't tell us as they bluster and pump us up for more war is that this is an easy one.  Flood the country with cash-for-work job programs like they already have in some provinces like Jawzjan, Uruzgan, and Balkh, and you've got that many more young men who don't even like the Taliban quitting and not shooting at our guys.

Our troops are being betrayed by their leaders' refusal to take a large number of fighters off the firing line the easy way.

The report is devoted to the phenomenon of the "part-time Taliban," youth who are often the only breadwinners in their families.  Jan says:

"I am the only breadwinner in our family of eight," said Abdullah Jan, a 22-year-old from a small village. "I went to Iran three times to try to find work, but I was expelled. I was in debt, and my father told me to go to the city. I looked for a job for three weeks, but then my brother got sick and needed medical treatment. He later died.

Jan says the young fighters are egged on by the guys with the money from behind:

"My first assignment was to attack the police checkpoint in Guakhan district.  We killed four policemen, and we lost two of our own. Another one was injured. The fight lasted for two hours, with the real Taliban encouraging us from behind the lines, saying 'go on, further, move, move, move.'

Agreement on the problem is becoming nearly universal, with Joe Biden admitting in Brussels last month that "70 percent of [the Taliban] are there for the jobs, because they are getting paid," and General David Petraeus saying that those who are simply fighting to support their families should be given an economic alternative.

So where is it?

Russian generals, who know a bit about having their asses handed to them by Afghan fighters, have some advice for us, and warn that kicking out empires is in their blood.  Micheal Scheuer in Imperial Hubris compares rural Afghans to Robert E. Lee's boys of the Army of Northern Virginia: innocent, open-faced rubes, and utterly fearless.  Quoting a Union officer Scheuer writes:

a more sinewy, tawny, formidable-looking  set of men could not be. In education they are certainly  inferior to our native-born people; but they are usually  very quick-witted within their own sphere of comprehension; and they know enough to handle weapons with terrible effect. Their great characteristic is their stoical manliness; they never beg, or whimper, or complain; but look you straight in the face, with as little animosity as if they had never heard a gun.

The Russian advice, coming from General Pavel Grachev, two tours in Afghanistan, is:

Post soldiers to guard road projects and irrigation systems. Pour billions of dollars into infrastructure, which would be more productive than firefights in far-flung villages. ("Russian Generals: More Troops Won't Help in Afghanistan," McClatchy Reports.)

The Russians know it can be done, and that you can have jobs without complete security.  

The IWPR makes its point unequivocally:

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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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