It seems late to realize this, but Gates told reporters he had only recently learned the “eye-opener” that the Taliban were able to attract so many fighters because they paid more. Generals in Afghanistan said the Taliban dole out $250 to $300 a month, while the Afghan Army paid about $120. So Gates has made sure that recruits get a raise to $240.
Here’s a thought: why not $400 a month and let the free market work its magic? Outbid the Taliban. We can afford it, the Taliban can’t. A big part of what’s gone wrong in Afghanistan is that we haven’t outspent the Taliban; their profits on the opium trade aren’t that big.
Of course, the Afghan army is largely illiterate, which reflects a broader human development problem in the country. Basic literacy needs to become part of the army’s training process — not just because modern weapons require maintenance with manuals, but it will make the Army an attractive option for young men.
More Afghans means fewer Americans. It also means a better Afghanistan. As I’ve argued before, democracy was born in the phalanx, the pike square, and the musket line.
Dowd saw Kharzai snubbing Gates and reported,
Needling his American sugar daddy, the Afghan peacock observed: “For another 15 to 20 years, Afghanistan will not be able to sustain a force of that nature and capability with its own resources.”
How gauche! And how true. The sooner we build Afghanistan an army, the sooner America can leave this tinpot dictator to stew. We’re going to be connected to the Afghans forever, whether we like it or not; but we can at least put distance between ourselves and the regime.