Redefining hard intelligence

American intel operations have scored some successes in Afghanistan by helping tribal leaders score some as well.  What do you get for the tribal leader that has everything, including multiple wives?  A bit of youth in a little blue pill apparently works wonders for friendship — and cooperation:

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

“Take one of these. You’ll love it,” the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

The enticement worked. The officer, who described the encounter, returned four days later to an enthusiastic reception. The grinning chief offered up a bonanza of information about Taliban movements and supply routes — followed by a request for more pills.

For U.S. intelligence officials, this is how some crucial battles in Afghanistan are fought and won. While the CIA has a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency has prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country’s roughest neighborhoods, according to officials directly involved in such operations.

The success of this strategy makes some sense.  People seem to think that we toss cash at people, but as Joby Warrick points out in this report, that can quickly compromise sources.  People who get large sums of money tend to flash it, and it becomes clear who works with Americans and who terrorists will avoid like the plague in the future.

Intel operatives look for other, less obvious enticements, and few things would be more private in Muslim tribal life than bedroom performance.  Many older tribal chiefs have multiple wives but may not have the physical ability to keep pace.  Few items would make the kind of impression that Viagra does for men in that position, and it’s highly unlikely that they’d be chatting about it at the mosque.  It’s practically designed for the mission.