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October 28, 2009

We Entered Afghanistan Bearing Cash For Warlords, After All

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So about Ahmed Wali Karzai. Remember we got into Afghanistan in 2001 thanks to the derring-do of CIA operatives who politicked with Northern Alliance warlords thanks to bricks of cash. That got us into Kabul and into Kandahar. People wrote books that celebrated it. Woodward wrote overwrought accounts of it. No one found it objectionable.

As I write for the Windy, consider the context here, and ask yourself: how easy is it to turn that spigot off?

And when the resources of the United States are tied up, for years, in another war a few thousand miles to the west, perhaps there aren’t better practical options than to keep making those payments. Who wants to risk an eruption, or a political collapse, when the eyes of the Bush administration are on the chaos in Iraq? And since the military and intelligence priority during that period is to hunt terrorists, but you don’t have a robust intelligence network in-country and the Pashtun population isn’t going to tip you off because you don’t do anything for it, wouldn’t it make more sense to keep renting your politically connected warlords?

There’s more, so click through. But this raises the question of who else the CIA is paying off in Afghanistan; and how it relates to the general strategy there.

Put another way: in their NYT op-ed, Exum and Kilcullen made the good point that the drones in Pakistan were a tactic, not a strategy. Things get bad when you confuse the two, because you, for lack of a better term, lose the plot. Well, in Afghanistan for the last six-seven years, we’ve had barely even the patina of a strategy, just disconnected tactics and searches for silver bullets. We don’t seem to have gotten much out of these payments, accordingly: just an incoherent and deteriorated war that now has to be bailed out.

To be clear: I’m not passing any value judgments on paying off AWK; I’m just saying there’s a context here.



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