Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On the other hand...

Over at Bellum, Mark Rice reports on "good(ish) news from Afghanistan, point to this at the Paper of Record.

Optimism is fine and I think that those doing development work in Afghanistan deserve medals - or a substantial increase in their daily rate which would be more tho their liking.  But a reality check is in order.  The troops are leaving and the money will dry up and in the meantime, in order to get anything done at all, the latest development news out of Afghanistan may actually be occurring much more often than people expect.

But this is shocking, shocking - and is behind a subscription wall so I'll quote the key parts of the story.

Subcontractors of DAI, a development contracting firm, may have misused funds of the U.S. Agency for International Development to pay the Taliban in exchange for protection, a review by USAID’s Office of Inspector General finds.

DAI is implementing that USAID-backed Small and Medium Enterprises Development, Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East, and West, and Local Governance and Community Development projects in Afghanistan.


News reports over the past year claimed that U.S. funds paid to contractors for Afghan reconstruction projects were siphoned off to Taliban insurgents in exchange for “protection” to prevent attacks.

The review, which was conducted by the USAID Regional Inspector General/Manila, however, revealed that DAI subcontractors may have “misused USAID funds to pay off Taliban insurgents in remote and insecure Taliban strongholds” for the Local Governance and Community Development project.

The review said: “Interviews with personnel from USAID, U.S. intelligence, and DAI indicated that, for LGCD subprojects, Afghan subcontractors would meet with local community leaders before the implementation phase and negotiate the terms of community support, including employment opportunities and security arrangements. The subcontractors would also negotiate security terms with insurgents either directly or indirectly through community leaders. Insurgents could demand from the subcontractor a ‘protection tax’ of up to 20 percent of the total subcontract value in exchange for protection. ‘Protection’ might include Taliban-provided security guards for the activity site and a promise not to attack the subcontractor’s personnel and equipment and not to halt the activity.”
Does anyone really find it shocking that some money is going to pay off the people who might blow up your
project and you with it?  The trouble is that money is somewhat fungible and a pay-off at one site merely allows the cash to be spent to buy weapons to use against someone who did not pay the protection money - like NATO troops.

It is very noble to engage in making lives better.  It is something else to do it in the name of nation-building knowing that when the foreigners leave it will not be a pleasant scene for those left behind.  Nation building was not the purpose of the US or NATO involvement in Afghanistan.  To butcher Nietzsche - "To forget one's purpose is the commonest form of stupidity."
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