General Stanley McChrysal seems to have made some news at today’s hearings with the revelation that the Taliban pays higher wages than the Afghan government for a soldiers. As Spencer Ackerman says “if the Obama administration and NATO are correct that many Taliban foot soldiers essentially fight because of economic opportunity, then this is a glaring, flashing red light of a problem.”
On the other hand, as far as problems go it’s an exceedingly correctable one. If there’s anything the international coalition has, it’s more money than the Taliban. If the Taliban pay $300 a month, there should be no problem with the coalition putting $350 or $400 a month together. This sort of thing is one reason why, despite some serious doubts about the strategy being pursued, I think there’s reason to believe Obama, Petraeus, McChrystal, etc. can make it work. Some of the mistakes in our policy are so egregious that an enormous amount of good is going to be done as we simply reverse the obvious errors.
At the same time, this highlights a lot of lingering issues about the cost-effectiveness of our approach. Why are we spending a multiple of Afghanistan’s total GDP on fighting a war in the country? Couldn’t more be done, for cheaper, with cash for bribes and development? How is it that it doesn’t take the Taliban years to train competent soldiers?