The Obama administration is considering outbidding the Taliban to persuade Afghan villagers to lay down arms as it struggles to find a new approach to a war that is fast losing public and congressional support....
One official said the key emphasis in the White House meetings had been to identify options that would prepare the way for American troops to leave. Apart from training more Afghan troops, the focus has shifted to accepting a political role for the Taliban, while also trying to weaken them by winning some over.
Afghans are known for changing sides back and forth during their long years of war — there is an old saying that “you can rent an Afghan but never buy one” — and battles have often been decided by defections rather than combat.
Paying Taliban foot-soldiers to switch sides could spare US lives and save money, say its advocates. A recent report by the Senate foreign relations committee estimated the Taliban fighting strength at 15,000, of whom only 5% are committed idealogues while 70% fight for money — the so-called $10-a-day Taliban. Doubling this to win them over would cost just $300,000 a day, compared with the $165m a day the United States is spending fighting the war.
That supposedly serious senior officials are even discussing this as an option in the real world is an indication that we have truly entered the bizarro world.