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Taliban ‘Protection Money’: Supply Line Strategy or Stability Underminer?

BY Daniel Sagalyn  December 16, 2009 at 5:30 PM EDT

Soldiers in Afghanistan. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

The day after the president announced his plan — along with his intent to deploy the additional forces within six months — Defense Secretary Gates told the NewsHour all the troops would arrive by the third quarter of next year.

But on Monday, the No. 2 U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, said it might be impossible to meet these timelines, and it might be 11 months before all troops can be in place. That’s only six months before troops are supposed to begin withdrawing.

According to retired Army Col. David Lamm, who served as the chief of staff of the military headquarters in Afghanistan in 2004 and 2005, “sometimes things get lost in translation between the planners in the Pentagon and on the Army staff, and by the time it gets over to the White House.”

The major roadblocks to bringing 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan are logistics and security. Analysts agree it’s a major challenge shipping tons of equipment and supplies halfway around the world to a landlocked country with poor roads and mountainous terrain. And it is a war zone with dangerous and contested territory.

Once inside the region, contractors hauling military supplies often ensure security by paying “protection money” to the Taliban. According to Arturo Munoz, who was a CIA agent in Afghanistan in 2002 and 2003, “It’s either pay this amount of money or we’ll blow up the truck.”

But paying off the Taliban to allow safe passage of American military supplies undercuts other Obama administration goals in Afghanistan, including improving rule of law and reducing corruption, contends Rachel Reid of Human Rights Watch.

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