NYT photo and caption: "Hajji Abdul Zahir, far left, the district governor of Marja, oversees payments by the Marines to Afghans in the region."
Um, do you see any Marines? Meanwhile, informants say that 30 Taliban have received "compensation" money from Marines from one Marja outpost alone.
Readers of this blog will remember Maj. Gen. Larry Nicholson, who, since last summer's Marine mini-surge into Helmand Province, has been noted here, and often, for his classic order to drink lots of tea, eat lots of goat, get to know these people.
Today, the New York Times carries a front-page story about how Taliban are confounding the PC-COIN effort to buy, I mean, win Afghan hearts and minds in Marja that has Marines paying out "hundreds of thousands of dollars a week" to locals in compensation money (for death and property losses, real and imaginary) and assorted make-work projects. Guess all that sipping, supping and socializing with Afghans didn't cut it. In the course of this sick-making survey of crackpot COIN theory run aground against Islam-based reality (namely, they just don't like anything about us except our dough), Nicholson delivers another gem over which future generations, if there are any, will marvel. From the Times story:
In Marja, the Taliban are hardly a distinct militant group, and the Marines have collided with a Taliban identity so dominant that the movement appears more akin to the only political organization in a one-party town, with an influence that touches everyone. Even the Marines admit to being somewhat flummoxed.
The fact that Marines are even "somewhat flummoxed" reveals they extent to which they have been sent into the war zone wholly ignorant about the basics of Islamic culture. But what else is new? BG Nicholson's response to Taliban Marja, now under his "command." His solution?
“We’ve got to re-evaluate our definition of the word ‘enemy,’ ” said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the Marine expeditionary brigade in Helmand Province. “Most people here identify themselves as Taliban.”
Brilliant. And no doubt eating all that goat was getting old, anyway. Simply, as MG Nicholson says, re-evaluate our definition of the word "enemy" -- change it to mean Best Friends Forever, for example -- and there's no more problem. Oh, and keep the cash coming. Why didn't anyone think of this before?
NYT photo: A local Afghan meets with US Marines to collect "battle damages." More photos from Marja here.