Gordon Brown proves himself to be a true son and heir of Aethelred the Unready. But the only problem with paying danegeld is that you never get rid of the Dane. “Taleban fighters to be ‘bought off’ with $500m,” by Sam Coates and James Bone in The Times, January 28 (thanks to Kris):
Britain is ready to contribute millions of pounds to a fund to buy off Taleban gunmen who are fighting British troops in southern Afghanistan.
More than 60 delegations, from Colombia to Australia, will gather in Lancaster House this morning to draw up an exit strategy from Afghanistan. Much of it is based on reintegrating the Taleban rank and file, wooing the Taleban leadership and gradually handing security to the Afghan Army and police.
The conference is expected to agree a $500 million (Â£310 million), five-year fund for President Karzai to “buy off” insurgents who are not ideologically committed to destroying the West.
Downing Street confirmed that Britain will make a contribution of a “few million”. Germany has agreed to $70 million over five years and the bulk of the money will come from the Japanese aid budget to Afghanistan, diplomats suggested.
In return, the Afghan leader will have to agree to international monitors to strengthen an anti-corruption campaign in his Government.
President Karzai, Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State and Ban Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General, flew in yesterday for the talks, which will be chaired by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary.
Before he arrived, Mr Karzai insisted that Afghanistan wanted to take responsibility for its affairs as soon as possible. “Afghanistan does not want to be a burden on the shoulder of our allies and friends,” he said.
Nevertheless, foreign money and experience will be needed for the delicate reintegration programme, which is being co-ordinated by American and British officers.
Officials believe that many young Afghan men in the south and east of the country join the Taleban because they have little else to do. They hope that the fund, which will be managed by President Karzai, will be used to offer them jobs as guards and in agriculture. They do not expect the money to be used for cash payments.
“The overwhelming majority of these people are not ideological supporters of Mullah Omar [the fugitive Taleban leader] and al-Qaeda,” Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said. “Based on interviews with prisoners, returnees, experts, there must be at least 70 per cent of these people who are not fighting for anything to do with those causes.”
The Taleban, who are monitoring the conference, predicted that the approach would fail and described the move as a trick. In a statement on their website, the group said that offers of economic incentives would not draw away fighters because the militants were not fighting for “money, property and position; but for Islam and to end the foreign military presence”.…