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The Afghan Marshall Plan, an Exit Strategy
- There is 40% - 50% unemployment in Afghanistan, and the Taliban pays $8 a day to young fighters who would rather be doing anything else. There is literal starvation taking place across the country, including in Kabul.
- 35% of Afghans are malnourished, according to the UN. Eight years after the occupation began, 1 out of 5 children still dies before the age of five, and two-thirds of the population still has no access to safe drinking water. Many children die of easily preventable or treatable disease. What is needed now is a "civilian assistance surge."
- The Taliban is politically unpopular, and most Afghans are repulsed by its ideology, which is an extreme Wahabist interpretation of Islam. Many people remember the cruel punishments and executions in the National Stadium. But it is growing in strength by taking advantage of vast numbers of unemployed men.
- In 2001 the vast majority of Afghans welcomed the overthrow of the Taliban, which was a small minority which ruled mostly by fear.
- The best way to defeat the Taliban, and to decrease the danger to our troops, is with a countrywide jobs program costing about $4 billion, less than what military operations cost for 2 months. The Independent Directorate for Local Governance (IDLG), a ministry of the Karzai government, reported that governors and district chiefs unanimously agreed that unemployment is the number one driver of the insurgency.
- Work projects which pay cash by the day or week are up and running successfully in Afghanistan. The problem is there are not nearly enough of them.
- Men gather in the squares in Kabul by the thousands hoping to be hired for day labor at $4 per day. They are of all ages, and ready and willing to work.
- One Afghan government ministry, the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD,) is ready and capable of managing large numbers of works projects which would hire large numbers of potential Taliban recruits. This project would include digging drainage ditches, irrigation ways, and clearing canals. This would cause mass defections in the Taliban ranks. The MRRD has set up over 25,000 Community Development Councils (CDCs,) committees at the village level, to insure that the help reaches ordinary Afghans, not corrupt warlords.
- "Building up" the Afghan National Army and Police will not by itself insure stability. Rural Afghans are often more afraid of the National Police than they are of the Taliban.
- The Taliban is not an indigenous movement to Afghanistan. The Taliban originated in Pakistani madrassas funded by the Pakistani intelligence agency the ISI, in order to have a friendly or neutral country on its northern border. This was an imperative in Pakistan's contest with India.
- Afghanistan is not an Arabic country, and has no affinity with Al Qaeda, which is Arabic in origin. The Pashto and Dari languages spoken in Afghanistan are Indo-European in origin, and distantly related to English.
- To frame the debate as being solely over whether there should be more troops, fewer troops, or no troops is flawed and misleading. This ignores the economic context of the insurgency. To advocate withdrawal without putting forth an alternative plan for stability is irresponsible.
- A withdrawal of US troops, by the traditional means of cutting off war funding, could be made possible a by modest infusion of economic assistance which targets and reaches ordinary Afghans. Most have no desire to join the Taliban, and would rather do anything else to make a living. Once freed of their need for the Taliban's opium money, Afghans of all ethnicities will turn on the Taliban themselves, and be capable of defending themselves.
- Pentagon spokesman Col. Tom Collins said in 2007 "There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we would call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically disadvantaged young men."
- General Karl Eikenberry, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan told Congress in 2007 "much of the enemy force is drawn from the ranks of unemployed men looking for wages to feed their families."
- General Stanley McChrystal in his recent report says there is little ideological loyalty between the local Pashtuns and the Taliban. The Taliban gain local support by capitalizing on “vast unemployment by empowering the young and disenfranchised through cash payments, weapons, and prestige."
- Starting jobs programs now in Afghanistan is not "nation-building." It is "starvation-stopping." A works program to employ vast numbers of unemployed, for two years, at $7 a day, is the first crucial step to stability and further development, guided by Afghans. It would result in small capitol savings which would jump start the Afghan economy. Afghans have suffered through 30 years of war and misery. It must stop, and the world will be rewarded with a stable and prosperous partner in the war on terrorism.
- Starting the Afghan Marshall Plan will win the war at a fraction of the cost of an extended military presence, and will leave much, much more money for Americans to create their own jobs programs here at home.
- That American Soldiers are getting killed by young men who would be willing to lay down their arms for $5 a day is a travesty.
Sources at www.jobsforafghans.org