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It is the open secret no one wants to talk about, the unwelcome truth that most prefer to hide. In Afghanistan, one of the richest sources of Taliban funding is the foreign assistance coming into the country.
Virtually every major project includes a healthy cut for the insurgents. Call it protection money, call it extortion, or, as the Taliban themselves prefer to term it, “spoils of war,” the fact remains that international donors, primarily the United States, are to a large extent financing their own enemy.
“Everyone knows this is going on,” said one U.S. Embassy official, speaking privately.
In Farah province, local officials report that the Taliban are taking up to 40 percent of the money coming in for the National Solidarity Program, one of the country’s most successful community reconstruction projects, which has dispensed hundreds of millions of dollars throughout the country over the past six years.
Many Afghans see little wrong in the militants getting their fair share of foreign assistance. “This is international money,” said one young Kabul resident. “They are not taking it from the people, they are taking it from their enemy.”
Where’s SIGAR on this? Since 2001, the U.S. Congress has appropriated more than $38 billion in humanitarian and reconstruction assistance to Afghanistan. This includes $5.04 billion provided for the reconstruction of Afghanistan in the Supplemental Appropriation for FY 2009 (P.L. 111-32).
But that’s not enough. Let’s pause right here for a minute in light of recent news of Ambassador Eikenberry requesting more money for Afghanistan reconstruction. Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe for TWP reported last Wednesday that “The United States will not meet its goals in Afghanistan without a major increase in planned spending on development and civilian reconstruction next year, the U.S. ambassador in Kabul has told the State Department.”
The report says that in a cable sent to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ambassador Karl W. Eikenberry said an additional $2.5 billion in nonmilitary spending will be needed for 2010, about 60 percent more than the amount President Obama has requested from Congress. The increase is needed “if we are to show progress in the next 14 months,” Eikenberry wrote in the cable, according to sources who have seen it.
Afghanistan is not known as the graveyard of empires for nothing. Let’s at least remember that.