US Could Buy Off the Taliban

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 14, 2009 6:23 PM CDT
Afghans gather to give information to Canadian forces conducting a sweep for Taliban fighters June 14, 2006 in Panjwai, Afghanistan.   (Getty Images)
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(Newser) – The US war in Afghanistan is costing $4 billion a month and lacks a clear end-date—so why not just pay off the Taliban's hired guns to stop fighting? Analysts say the math makes sense: Taliban gunmen earn $10 a day. There are 10,000 to 15,000 of them. Doubling their pay would cost $300,000 a day, or less than 1% of the war's current daily cost, writes Mark Thompson in Time.

Washington used a similar strategy in Iraq, paying up to 100,000 Sunni rebels $300 a month to make peace. Would it work in Afghanistan? Joe Biden estimates that only 5% of Taliban fighters are "incorrigible," and 70% are in it for the money. One analyst writes that the US could "buy the insurgency at less cost than maintaining forces, Burger King, Popeye's, defense contractors and Nautilus equipment" at the US military base in Bagram.