The ten dollar Taliban
After almost a decade in Afghanistan, American and Canadian troops are considering the terms of their withdrawal. In an attempt to compensate for their leave, negotiations between governments have been taking place for a tentative reintegration and reconciliation plan. Their success is dependent upon the cooperation with Taliban forces.
Dalibor Misina, professor of global studies at Wilfrid Laurier University agreed that it is, in fact, “an attempt to do something as a substitute for the west not being there.”
“Maybe this is an alternative way to try and stop the war,” Misina added.
There are many complications with the reintegration and reconciliation plan. Mark Sedra, a senior fellow at Centre for International Governance Innovation stated, “There are a number of certain criticisms towards this plan. For example, how to you tell who is actually a Taliban fighter? It’s not like they carry ID cards.”
The main element of the reconciliation plan is to offer a monetary incentive to Taliban fighters. In return, they must pledge to cease all operations. The monetary support would help provide reformed militants start a new life.
“Many of these people might not have any education or skills to enter a formal economy,” Sedra said, “So you help train them to be a carpenter, or you give them tools for farming, or they’re given micro grants to open a small business.”
Misina makes a clear distinction however. He said, “I just want to clarify that reintegration and reconciliation are two different processes.
Reintegration is basically trying to bring back soldiers and have them renounce violence and the Al Qaeda ideology and then offer them some financial opportunities as an exchange for their pledge not to participate in violence anymore.”
“Reconciliation is trying to strike a political deal with the Taliban and having them participate in the official process of the country,” he continued.
Though the reintegration and reconciliation plan is hopeful, it is quite complicated. According to an estimate by Sedra, Afghanistan has a 40-50 per cent unemployment rate; one of the lowest in the world. Sedra said, “People call them the 10 dollar Taliban because the assumption is that because they are so poor they are just fighting for money. A lot of the low level fighters fight on a temporary or seasonal basis. They will fight when they need money then go home and return again when they need more money.”
Plans for a peaceful settlement though optimistic, may not be realistic. Sedra noted that there had been a plan like this before called the Peace Through Strength Program. Sedra explained, “It failed because it just never had the support of the international community. It was hard to tell if those who signed up were even Taliban.”
He continued, “Many of them signed up and then the incentives they were promised didn’t hold up. Some were getting little more than bus fare.”
Misina conveyed, “They need to work on the ideological tension before they can achieve anything with monetary incentive.”
“You can’t force people to reconcile if they are not ready to do that,” Misina said. “Staying for the sake of staying without accomplishing much is as bad as leaving but able to do something. Overall their strategy is unclear.”