Wed, 28 Oct 2009
A new US defense bill set to be signed into law by President Barack Obama will allow the US military in Afghanistan to pay Taliban fighters who renounce violence.
The provision resembles the same program used widely in Iraq by US commanders, where former insurgents allegedly switched sides and were re-integrated into Iraqi society.
The system is being formally used in Afghanistan for the first time.
Under the legislation, US commanders in Afghanistan can use money from an existing Commanders Emergency Response Program (CERP) for a variety of purposes, without setting a specific amount for the fighters' switch.
The Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Senator Carl Levin however said on Tuesday that the money will be used mainly to pay former Taliban fighters to protect their towns and villages.
Levin also claimed the program enabled some 90,000 formerly hostile Iraqis to form local militias and protect their communities.
So far $1.3 billion has been authorized for the fund as a whole in fiscal 2010, which began October 1.
The new bill is part of Obama's new strategy to turn around the deteriorating mission in Afghanistan.
As part of his overall strategy review on Afghanistan, Obama is currently debating whether to dispatch another 40,000 troops to the region, as requested by his generals.
This is while, only this winter, Obama had approved 21,000 more troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of US forces there to 68,000 by the end of the year.
During the last months, insurgency has skyrocketed in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the Taliban has stepped up attacks against US and NATO occupation troops with roadside bombs and ambushes.
More than 420 Western troops have been killed in the fighting this year alone, making it the deadliest year of the war since the beginning of the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
At the same time, Afghan civilian casualties have risen to 1,500 — many killed in US air raids — in the first nine months of the year, resulting in greater animosity toward the occupiers.
Click to view image: 'US to pay Taliban to change sides'
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