Taliban earn $2,372 for each NATO soldier killed

May 24, 2010 - 0:0

LONDON (The Sunday Times) -- Taliban rebels are earning a bounty of up to 2,372 U.S. dollars (£1,640) for each NATO soldier they kill, according to insurgent commanders.

The money is said to come from protection rackets, taxes imposed on opium farmers, donors in the Persian Gulf states who channel money through Dubai and from the senior Taliban leadership in Pakistan.
So far this year 213 NATO soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, including 41 British troops, bringing the potential rewards for the Taliban to 42,600,000 Pakistani rupees or 505,200 U.S. dollars (£349,237).
Taliban commanders said the bounty had more than doubled since the beginning of last year.
The insurgents, who employ “hit and run” tactics against foot patrols and convoys, use paid informants, media reports and the local population to confirm the deaths of NATO soldiers.
“We can’t lie to our commanders: they can check to see if there was a fight in that area. We get money if we capture equipment too. A gun can fetch $1,000 (£690),” said a commander from Khost province who controls about 60 fighters.
The money usually reaches commanders via the traditional hawala transfer system found in many Muslim countries. They then share it among their men and sometimes celebrate with a feast.
“It’s a lot of money for us. We don’t care if we kill foreigners: their blood allows us to feed our families and the more we kill, the more we weaken them. Of course we are going to celebrate this,” said a commander from Ghazni province.
The increase in rewards for Taliban fighters comes as the Afghan government prepares to present its strategy for ending the insurgency. This aims to lure less senior insurgents away from the fighting by offering them jobs in farming and engineering, vocational training in carpet weaving and carpentry, education and assimilation into the Afghan security forces, including the secret police.
President Hamid Karzai hopes that a peace jirga (tribal council) in Kabul next weekend will rally support for this peace and reintegration program (PRP).
The PRP says little about the government’s approach to negotiations with senior Taliban, but suggests that exile in a third country is one option.
“We are weary of war and division and we have shed too many tears. Out of division let us build unity,” says the draft strategy. In January a conference in London attended by the Afghan government and its international backers raised £110 million to fund the reintegration strategy.
Insurgents who are willing to lay down their weapons and join the government will undergo a 90-day cooling off period in “demobilization centers”, where they will be vetted and given biometric identity cards.
After that they will be granted amnesty provided they sever any links with Al-Qaeda and renounce violence. Fighters will be sent to “deradicalisation” classes taught by mullahs and for psychological counseling and psychiatric treatment.
The government’s proposals have received a mixed reaction from Taliban commanders, who are referred to as “our upset brothers” in the draft.
“I think our leaders are trying to find ways to counter the government’s proposals. The extra cash (bounties) will encourage more people to join us and will get inactive groups to fight,” said a deputy district commander from Kandahar.
A minority said they would be willing to surrender their weapons in return for jobs. “But the government and international community should know that they can’t solve the problem by giving jobs only to us fighters. They must consider all the poor people; otherwise those who don’t get jobs will take up arms,” warned a low-level commander from Ghazni who said he had joined the Taliban four years ago to feed his family.
Most Taliban commanders deny any financial motive. In a dozen interviews over the past four months, low and midlevel Taliban commanders from provinces where the insurgency is fierce have set out their conditions for ending the violence.
“We are not fighting for money or power. We are fighting to end government corruption, to rid this country of foreign troops, and we want a return to sharia law,” said a Kandahar commander.
NATO’s reintegration group in Kabul acknowledges the insurgency is driven by local factors: inept governance, predatory politics, malign and manipulative power brokers, poverty and tribal feuding. “There will always be the hard core that will continue fighting for ideological reasons but there’s an awful lot of people who are tired of fighting and who we can bring in,” Major-General Phil Jones, the unit’s British commander, said.
Some analysts believe reintegration fails to address the underlying causes of the insurgency in thousands of villages that are among the worst afflicted. “Reintegration addresses the symptoms rather than the disease itself,” said Matt Waldman, a Harvard analyst.
Several NATO soldiers were injured yesterday when insurgents fired rockets at Kandahar airfield, the Alliance’s main military base in southern Afghanistan, writes Richard Beeston in Kandahar.
Photo: U.S. Army soldiers with the 1st platoon, 2nd Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, patrol in Langar village in Arghandab valley in Kandahar province, southern Afghanistan, May 9, 2010. U.S. (Reuters photo)