It is abundantly clear that congressmen who vote for more war funding this week, after the issuance of the Tierney report, will be voting to fund the Taliban in no insubstantial amount. It is estimated that the business previously thought to be the Taliban's biggest source of support, the opium business, brings in around $300 million. Now the Tierney report from Congress's own Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Warlord, Inc., reveals that the Taliban's take from the U.S. Department of Defense, every penny of it U.S. taxpayer dollars, could be as high as $400 million and certainly no less than $100 million.
The Pentagon outdoing the opium business at supporting the Taliban? Shocking, but true.
It is beyond doubt now that "protection payments" to insurgents, as the Tierney report calls them, for truck convoys carrying re-supplies for the network of 200 American bases across Afghanistan, are a major if not THE major source of funding for the Taliban. This week the Congress will vote on whether to continue those payments, whether the vote is cast in those terms or not. An AP write-up of the Tierney report , as well as a recent CBS newscast, calls the Pentagon funding of the Taliban "unintentional," but that is an incorrect word to use. Knowledge of the practice goes up the chain of command all the way up to civilian leadership like Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who testified to Congress seven months ago, on December 3, 2009:
"You offload a ship in Karachi and by the time whatever it is – you know, muffins for our soldiers’ breakfasts or anti-IED equipment – gets to where we’re headed, it goes through a lot of hands. And one of the major sources of funding for the Taliban is the protection money."
The practice cannot be "unintentional." Reluctant, perhaps. The bottom line is there is no other way to move the vast quanity of supplies required by a full-blown occupation, around a country the size of Afghanistan, except by 200 - 500 vehicle truck convoys, through the most hostile terrain on Earth.
An American officer in the Tierney report says:
"the heart of the matter is that insurgents are getting paid for safe passage because there are few other ways to bring goods to the combat outposts and forward operating bases where soldiers need them. By definition, many outposts are situated in hostile terrain, in the southern parts of Afghanistan. The [Afghan security companies run by warlords] don't really protect convoys of American military goods here, because they simply can't; they need the Taliban's cooperation."
How hostile? Says the report:
"The terrain is unforgiving: deserts that kick up sandstorms in the summer become flooded and muddy in the spring, and treacherous mountain roads leave no room for error. Summer heat regularly reaches 120 degrees. Mountain weather can change in an instant, bringing snow and freezing rain. In the winter, the single tunnel that connects Kabul to northern Afghanistan is frequently cut off by avalanches."
Welcome to the Graveyard of Empires.
This is the signal we have been waiting for on the war in Afghanistan. Beyond troop casualties, beyond the society-busting cost, is the Tierney report's ill wind blowing in our faces which tells us: Pssst! It can't be won!
The anti-war momentum has been growing, with the Senate last week finally stripping out the "liptick on the pig" factor of education and other important funding, so each can be voted on separately, forcing Congress into a clean up-or-down vote on the war. Pay attention. Now you will know if your congressman is for the war or against it.
No longer can congressmen claim to be "anti-war" while still voting for war funding "because I had to vote for the education funds," the latest tactic. Last month a record number of the House voted for an amendment to require a binding exit plan by the end of the year.
The exit plan is simple: empower the Afghan people against the economic hold of the warlords and the Taliban, who often blur into the same people, by flooding civil society non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the honest ones, with cash and reconstruction assistance in major population centers like Kabul, where security is not a major issue. There are already orange work-vests on men in ditches, for telecom wire and other infrastucture, all over the city. They should bloom like flowers, workmen earning a decent wage of $8-$10 a day, very decent for Afghanistan, which keeps them away from the Taliban and warlords. Neither of the latter are particularly popular, although the Taliban has come to symbolize a national resistance to a foreign occupation which has nearly blown its chance to bring improvements to the lives of ordinary Afghans, who are among the poorest of the poor in the world.
Even the trillions of dollars in minerals and oil and gas doesn't make sense for an imperial occupation, if one calls it that. The cost of a long term occupation will easily reach the trillions, as Iraq has already reached $3 trillion according to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe Stiglitz. That simply buying resources at market rate might be cheaper is the fly in the ointment of empire theory. That is, unless one considers that empire has its own logic, not always necessarily aligned with the interests of the nation from which the empire sprang. War is profitable to some even as it runs at a loss to others, and like a marathoner whose body is at the last consuming its own muscle.
Congress this week should decline to approve Obama’s request for $33 billion more to continue the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, and instead require him to begin preparations for an orderly withdrawal of all but civilian assistance. Afghanistan can stand on its own given the right kind of job-creating reconstruction programs which address the 40% unemployment rate which is the Taliban’s best friend.
CONTACT CONGRESS, SAY VOTE NO ON WAR FUNDING.
CONGRESS SWITCHBOARD, 24/7 AFTER-HOURS MESSAGE GIVE THEM YOUR ZIP CODE IF YOU DON'T KNOW YOUR CONGRESSMAN: 202-224-3121