As the cool weather finally moves into Afghanistan I have to tell you that from my perspective not much is happening. I am not talking about security incidents – they almost doubled last week from a near all time high the week before. There is lots of villianary going on – the weather is perfect for it – but nothing seems to be really changing. One gets the impression that the players from all sides want to maintain the current status quo because all the sides are benefiting.
Last week yet another story about one of the ISAF countries paying the Taliban to keep things on the down low came out. This story implied the French losses in last August action around the Uzbin Valley were directly tied to them failing to maintain the financial arrangements of their predecessors from Italy. There are hundreds of stories about how the Taliban and their various allies are benefiting from the current war as are various government officials and a rouges gallery of warlords. NATO has issued a strong denial that any of its members are paying off potential trouble makers.
I don’t believe the NATO spokesman nor do I believe there is a direct correlation between payments to local centers of influence by the Italians and the attack on the French patrol in the Uzbin. If the French had known about such an arrangement and refused to honor it one suspects they would have been better prepared when they ran into their first ambush. However there is no question that “centers of influence” on every side of this conflict are making a lot of money by allowing or protecting or stealing from the unbelievable amount of supplies moving into Afghanistan. This is a fact which is not in dispute – many people including myself believe the various Taliban units make much more cash in the protection racket than they make in the poppy trade.
Most of the money being paid for protection is coming from the reconstruction effort and as with most things in life is not as straight forward as paying cash to the head bad guy to be left alone. The cash comes from establishing local monopolies such as vehicle and heavy equipment rentals. If people had any idea how much money there is in waste removal trucks servicing the many different FOB’s and COP’s which dot the countryside we would have a Gold Rush of poop removal prospectors combing Central Asia for honey dipper trucks. Having a monopoly on poop trucks, or fuel tankers, or rock crushers, could make a man millions quickly in Afghanistan. The other way money is extracted from the effort is by providing security or a construction services. Much has been written about the efforts in Kabul to regulate the security industry but once outside the capitol every local power broker has both his own security and construction company and failing to utilize these services invites attack.
There are persistent rumors that the local Army FOB at the Jalalabad Airport is being targeted with rockets by local “land owners” because they are not paying enough rent. My Army friends have heard this too and have not a clue about what it is all about because they don’t pay rent. It is possible that some locals are not happy with the current unit. The CO banned the weekly bazaar in which dozens of local vendors would participate. This was an economic loss to local businessmen but given the amount of aircraft, drones and munitions on the base a reasonable precaution. It is hard to believe that somehow somebody important is no longer getting their cut and is letting lose with 107mm rockets as a result. But they are shooting one or two every week or so. The skipper hired well diggers to go out into the fields next to the base to dig up the dud rockers (they function about 50% of the time) but the army remains convinced they aren’t being shot at.
I’ll tell you this … when us outside the wire contractors fall behind of paying local subcontractors our personal security goes right out of the window. Many a firm has had important local national staff kidnapped and in some cases international staff attacked over money issues. As I have observed in the past experienced mafia leaders would feel very at home operating businesses in Afghanistan.
One of these days the local shooter is going to get lucky with his 107 rockets and hit the fuel pit or ammo dump which will get every-one’s attention for about four or five days. I doubt he is aiming at those sites or even wants to hit them which is why it seems that everything is just moving along the same way it always does. We lose a fuel tanker here, a few men in a MRAP there, the drones continue to kill with scary precision, the military talks COIN but when you observe them operating in and around Kabul you see a attrition warfare oriented army of occupation completely removed and divorced from the locals they are supposed to be protecting.
My prediction for the future is that nothing will change. The President has made it clear he intends to continue vote present. Now he is waiting for the election results in order to determine the best way forward to pursue our goals (whatever the hell they may be) in Afghanistan. John Kerry, who was a CAB Chaser before there were CAB’s, has weighed into the debate helping out President Obama by declaring that targeted strikes combined with Special Forces missions will not be enough to “win” in Afghanistan. It always helps to have a senior senator like Kerry coming out in direct opposition to your Vice President’s new strategary when you are running the clock.
Several trial balloons being floated out of the White House. The Pakistan First idea which is favored by VP Biden and maybe three other people; the we are “prepared to accept some Taliban involvement in Afghanistan’s political future” idea – the quote is from a White House press briefing. The third option (which I believe will be the one Obama goes with) is to declare status quo as victory and start to wind things down real slow like. The only problem with that last option is that the bad guys get a vote on your plan too and once they see the money train is leaving the station it is hard to predict just how poorly they will react. It is safe to say that regardless of the direction our current administration takes Afghanistan is going to continue to get more unstable and more violent. The Afghans I know don’t want this but they also understand just how little they can influence current events. Life is hard; harder when you are stupid and there seems to be an inordinate amount of stupid people on all sides trying to “manage” the fight in Afghanistan.
11 Replies to “Pay to Play”
The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/19/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.
1. Sounds like the Sukhomlinov effect.
2. But nobody has nicer uniforms than the USMC.
3. Took me two years to pay off my loan for uniforms from the Marine Shop.
4. Adding my DD-214 authorized bling from my army service, was a sight to behold in Dress Blues, with Sam Browne belt and 34″ sword.
5. Could I Fight?
6. Most of my USMC combat experience consisted of being a good sport about letting assholes shoot at me.
7. Doesn’t sound like most of the USMC units (that I hear about, anyway) are in the hearts and minds business.
8. Back a step, you make the local Taliban or whoever they are sound more businessman than ideologue.
9. Be that the case, buying the SOB’s off would be playing to our strength.
10. Got in trouble for saying pretty much that about the surge in Iraq, to wit: forget FM 3-24, forget the fusion cells, standing up the Sons of Iraq was everything.
11. Last bit in this disorganized pos comment: you might just be a little hard on Sen. Kerry.
12. Lied, one more. Agree with your third option. Afhans have the same handicap as Iraqis, Vietnamese, et al: they don’t vote in US elections.
Looks like the GI Joe party is winding down.
Love the title of your blog; Pay to play! We the US tax payer are paying up the a–. What ever is going down one thing is for sure, the region will never be the same (pre 2001). I look forward to running the rivers of Afghanistan. Look, the rivers of Mexico are just as dangerous, nobody cares enough to send in NATO, or use pilotless aircraft to kill off the drug cartel. Working poor people struggle and continue being terrorized and killed. Come spend a few days in El Paso, Texas or Douglas Arizona. It is happening Closer to home as well as abroad, WTF. I wish you would report some on the local work you do outside the wire. Some of your best work is such; clean up crews and fablab efforts. All the best to Amy. Cheers,
Again, very clear writing with an eye to details that help us fill in the picture.
Not sure you saw this over on Nibras’s site, but he did a hilarious satirical piece called, “The Biden Monologues.”
“It is safe to say that regardless of the direction our current administration takes Afghanistan is going to continue to get more unstable and more violent.”
Now that’s sobering.
Payoffs. Shooting up trucks. Kidnappings. This sounds just like a very extended version of the Sopranos, only there are way too many Tonys to keep track of.
I live in Makroryan, Kabul and work in Wazir Akbar Khan, Kabul, at times it take me more than 45 minutes drive to get to work or vice versa, Why? well, if you have seen how US/NATO has based itself in the capital you will know the answer. Hamas and Taliban are accused by others that they use civilians as a shield, that’s why they hide amongst them, Now, What is the thing that NATO has done differently in Afghanistan; they have their bases within the cities and amongst the civilians and drive their humvees in limited busy roads, You try get closer to them, you get tens of bullets up your ass. They all need to get out of the cities and go to valleys and the countless mountains, that how they can save their and the lives of the civilians.
Once again great post … keep up the good work mate
We can’t expect much from Washington when political decision making is driven by winning votes, not winning wars. I think the time has passed for this period of US history and we will most likely not see the ‘surge’ of US troops to Afghanistan. However, I say that with some reservation since Karazai has now agreed to a run off, but what does this mean really? He and his brother will pay district chiefs and others to stuff ballot boxes again, and the election commission will again find rampant cases of fraud. Let’s face it, the word I get from CONUS most Americans (minus the few who have family and friends over here) are not the least bit interested in this war. The politicians don’t have a solution or clue for that matter, so we will leave Afghanistan with no certain winner or solution. The Taliban will remain and so will the political corruption. Our experiment will fail and no one will really pay attention…sadly the experiment will fail at the cost of US lives.
I don’t believe a ‘surge’ will fix anything if we’re going to do nothing more than build more FOBs and drive more MRAPs announcing our location making IED targeting for the enemy that much easier. I do see some political rumblings coming soon as the Repubs wail about the increase in violence against coalition forces citing the ‘surge’ would be the cure all just like Iraq!! It’s that easy, right? Of course, who is following the current situation in Iraq? Sectarian violence is on a slow rise and the US is discussing a faster withdrawal from there…I see civil war in their future as the new Shia Islamic Republic fights to maintain its position from the Sunnis and Kurds.
I guess this is COIN so let’s have more meetings, more conferences, and spend more money on the status quo!! I think you are right, POTUS will continue to ‘Heisman’ any decision about a surge and if he keeps putting it off he runs into the re-election cycle and he will NOT make any major military moves during that period of time. He won’t risk the perception of failure and jeopardizing his chances for re-election. Again, decision making driven by winning votes not the war…
You nailed it Tim, good report.
And when you dropped the “he was a CAB chaser before he was….”, I just about died laughing! Too funny….and the included cartoon once again is accurate almost everywhere.
As usual your analysis is pretty much spot on.
This years’ Nobel Peace Prize winner is waiting to see how much a decision supporting the General he put into place will affect his popularity polls. Of course, he will have to ponder things like this in between his late night talk show appearances. Or his having a Latina night at the White House.
We’ll see how that works out for him and ‘Shelle.
Just know that there are many Americans who are fed up with the dilly dallying waffling totally useless POS and all his cohorts like the horse faced a** he sent to Afghanistan this past week.
Now y’all take care out there!
Only idiots in bank can provide mortgages without deposits and we all pay for it!
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