Those Taliban moderates and their moderate ways

The Obama administration wants to start rhetorically separating the Taliban from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, but in Pakistan, they’re not fooled.  Forty-one people died from a suicide bombing in a crowded marketplace in Peshawar, not far from Swat, where the Pakistani government has conducted military operations against the Pakistani Taliban.  The Taliban took credit for the attack, which also wounded 45:

A suicide car bombing targeting Pakistani troops killed 41 people Monday, the fourth grisly militant attack in just over a week, as the Taliban pledged to mobilize fighters across the country for more strikes. …

In the latest strike, a suicide bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near an army vehicle in a market in the northwest Shangla district, provincial Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said. The attack killed 41, including six security officers, and wounded 45 other people, he said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility. …

The recent string of bloody attacks began last week when a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a heavily guarded U.N. aid agency in the heart of the capital, Islamabad, killing five staffers. On Friday, a suspected militant detonated an explosives-laden car in the middle of a busy market in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing 53 people.

Those attacks were followed by the raid on army headquarters in the city of Rawalpindi on Saturday that killed nine militants and 14 others. Military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said the militants were hoping to seize senior army officials and trade them for their jailed comrades.

At least the attack on a military headquarters focused on a legitimate military target.  The other attacks targeted civilians, which makes it terrorism.   All of these attacks come from the Taliban in Pakistan, not their allies in al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, the White House may have a better idea than the trial balloons it has floated lately.  In a strategy taken directly from the surge in Iraq, the US may simply outbid the Taliban for native security services (via Allahpundit):

The Obama administration is considering outbidding the Taliban to persuade Afghan villagers to lay down arms as it struggles to find a new approach to a war that is fast losing public and congressional support. …

Afghans are known for changing sides back and forth during their long years of war — there is an old saying that “you can rent an Afghan but never buy one” — and battles have often been decided by defections rather than combat.

Paying Taliban foot-soldiers to switch sides could spare US lives and save money, say its advocates. A recent report by the Senate foreign relations committee estimated the Taliban fighting strength at 15,000, of whom only 5% are committed idealogues while 70% fight for money — the so-called $10-a-day Taliban. Doubling this to win them over would cost just $300,000 a day, compared with the $165m a day the United States is spending fighting the war.

The tactic was used to good effect in Iraq where the US government put 100,000 Sunni gunmen on its payroll for about $300 a month each.

However, that success in Iraq did not come by implementing this policy alone.  General David Petraeus applied this strategy along with a large increase in troops and aggressiveness against insurgents, combining the power of all tactics into a successful counterinsurgency.  Even with these payments, we would still need substantial increases in troop strength in Afghanistan in order to make sure that, well, our Afghans stay bought.

This actually makes a lot more sense than the silly notion that we can peel the Taliban away from al-Qaeda or that the Taliban are really moderates interested in power sharing.  If the White House pursues this idea, they will find a lot more success in working with Congress than in attempting to either partner with or ignore radical terrorists in the hope that they use that encouragement to lay down their weapons.

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