“Bribe the Tribes” Story: Propaganda?

As the “Bribe the Tribes” story picks up a bit of momentum, in addition to denials, we see a bit of re-direction:

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, speaking in St. John’s, described the allegations as likely little more than “Taliban propaganda.”

Retired Canadian major-general Lewis MacKenzie suggested the notion of bribes to the Taliban “smells of a really intelligent piece of propaganda.”

True, we have a British media outlet “confirming” the story with a Taliban “commander”, but let’s look at where the information came from in the original stories that got the ball rolling, shall we?

The clandestine payments, whose existence was hidden from the incoming French forces, were disclosed by Western military officials. (The Times, 15 Oct 09)

One Western military source told of payments made by Canadian soldiers stationed in the violent southern province of Kandahar, while another officer spoke of similar practices by the German army in northern Kunduz.  “I can tell you that lots of countries under the NATO umbrella operating out in rural parts of Afghanistan do pay the militants for not attacking them,” the senior Afghan official said. (Agence France-Presse, 16 Oct 09)

Since Canada, Italy and Germany were named by these sources in various venues, I’m guessing the Western officials were not from any of these countries.

I don’t know who told the reporter the initial information that started the research, but it’s interesting to see that it’s mainly allies who are confirming this.

I wonder what agenda these allied “sources” have?

Or should I say “alleged” allies?

All that said, this certainly does give the Taliban an interesting messaging point:  look at all the money your pour into defeating us, and we still get money!

A variation of this meme (specifically, some development project money ends up in Taliban hands through protection payments to let the projects be built, convincing enough folks to cause the US government’s international aid agency to look into it), but I haven’t seen any exploitation of this theme by the Taliban themselves.

Then again, maybe they’re happy to sit back, and watch the NATO allies pick away at each other with claims, counterclaims and denials.

Someone more cynical than myself might say we may just be doing the Taliban’s work for them on this one.

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