Afghanistan: From Killing to Bribing


Johan Galtung

The London conference on Afghanistan was a done deal and has been in the works for a long time.  The Taliban seem to be resistant to killing, they actually add to their numbers like amoeba and launch attacks ever closer to the hearts of power.  So, if military power, the Big Stick, even carried by 44 countries in a coalition (although the Swiss left and others have announced that they may soon be leaving) does not work, let us try economic power, the carrot.  That has actually been done from Day 1 back in 2001 as development assistance or nation-building, to the people as water and schools and to the country as (Western) institution-building.  What is new is the cash element, buying the Taliban out assuming that only a small core is not for sale.  US$140 million are pledged in the first run, to be scaled up to US$500 million.  How valuable on any market when the effects of doubling the money supply by printing in 2009 alone, according to AlJazeera (for the UK tripling), shows up as inflation in the USA and-or a major drop in exchange value in the world is another matter.

There is talk about Taliban reintegration in society and reconciliation, and of course major nation-building, based on Karzai leadership, continued training of Afghan police and military to manage their own security.  In 15 years time, Karzai adds.

Congressman Neil Abercrombie from Hawai’i said on CNN that the surge under Bush in Iraq worked by paying the resistance not to kill US soldiers.  But even if that is the case, and even if Iraq is very far from “stabilized” with violence continuing, and no solution to the centrifugal forces away from Baghdad in sight, Afghanistan is very different.  Close to 200 years of victory over invaders count. And Afghanistan is even more divided by nations than Iraq.

Let us look at it from a Taliban point of view (and it helps to have spoken to some).  Here are seven points they might make, meaning seven reasons that this in all probability will not work.

1.  The invaders are weakened.  They are desperate.  With no chance of winning the war they launched on and in Afghanistan 7 October 2001 this is an effort to conceal the defeat.  This is not an offer out of strength, but out of weakness.  Rather than putting down our weapons let us raise them, get more, and attack!

2.  Bribery is an insult.  The infidels bribing Taliban away from fighting the great evil, secularization, as opposed to Afghanistan having dialogue with Muslim countries like Tunisia, Turkey, Indonesia. Insult + Trauma by killing = More Resistance; not less.

3.  Some will take the bribe and put their life in danger as the bribe is divisive, peeling the softer skin off from the hard core, whereas killing unifies.  The result could be civil war.

4.  Join the training, take the cash, and turn it against them.  The cash can be turned into IEDs at US$10 a bomb, training brings arms and tactics that might be useful and can bring resisters closer to the heart of the enemy for lethal strikes like in the earlier wars.

5.  Reintegration: meaningless in a Kabul-steered Afghanistan and western-steered Kabul as that means status quo.

6.  Reconciliation: meaningless with no solution to the key problems: stopping secularization, decentralizing Afghanistan, and all foreign armies out.  This is pacification, no reconciliation.

7.  “Made in London” is a stamp of invalidity: this comes as dictate from the major center of attacks on Afghanistan, from 1838 on, and is in no way an outcome of dialogues and negotiations with the forces of the resistance, only with some from the non-resistance.(1)

Weakness + Insult + Status Quo + Pacification + London Dictate = NO

Traitors will be punished; arms and cash will be turned against them.

Killing and bribing is like treating rats and pigeons with electric shocks and cheese-sugar in Harvard experiments.  What is missing is the third power, doing what is right together with the appointed enemy (Petersburg 2001), the Taliban, maybe even the majority of Afghans.  But then the discourse has to change from winning by bribing-killing (and having their sons and daughters die for Karzai and UNOCAL) to solving the underlying conflict.

In the TRANSCEND mediation in Peshawar in February 2001 some typical Afghan goals were identified:

* steer between large scale corruption and fundamentalist moralism;

* steer between a unitary state and total disintegration;

* integration with neighboring countries with the same nations;

* meeting basic needs across gender, class and nation fault lines;

* security in a country with a culture of violence.

The ways of meeting those goals, after a week’s work, were:

* coalition government with the Taliban of their choice;

* Afghanistan as a federation with Swiss level of local autonomy;

* a Central Asian Community of Afghanistan with eight neighbors;

* a basic needs oriented policy across all divides;

* peacekeeping forces mainly from Islamic countries.

The good news might be the interpretation of London as moving a little bit in this direction.  There is less killing-destruction, more cash-construction.  There is talk of some Taliban joining.  Of a loose federation with “war-lords” not in the government in Kabul; but as prime ministers of their own parts, nothing is heard. Bringing in neighbors, yes; nothing about a community independent of the West, and of China and SCO.  There is talk of basic needs, but most is lost in corruption and “security”.  And the talk is about the West staying or leaving, and when, not of regional peacekeeping.

    Bribery will fail and it so deserves.  But, USA-UK: Continue Moving!


(1) Chapter [55] in 50 Years: 100 Peace & Conflict Perspectives, TRANSCEND University Press. See


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 31 Jan 2010.

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