On Sunday in western Afghanistan, thirty Taliban fighters defected to the government they had spent 6 years fighting. Their commander, Mullah Abdul Kabir, proceeded to call on the government to build a clinic and schools in the district they had operated out of. They also asked that foreigners no longer be allowed to search their homes.(Xinhuanet)
There is a recurring theme here.
In Kandahar province, American-backed militias are being raised. However, these militias are not fighting for cash or even weapons- they are being raised to secure their territories, and in return they get- can you guess?- developmental aid.
Greg Mortenson might just approve.
Achieving overall victory in Afghanistan is probably not possible- it is, after all, an unconventional war that can only be ended by the Afghans. However, the deadliest weapon against the Taliban and al Qaeda is being used more and more often; the promise of a better tomorrow brought through development, especially schools and health clinics. Irrigation and road projects are great as well.
This is a war where destroying the enemy is not only impossible, but not enough to win. We must also help the Afghans build because the future they build will be theirs.
The Taliban have not gotten this memo. Despite their "attempts" to "moderate" the response the Taliban came up with to McChrystal's plan of securing Kandahar is to blow up dozens of Pashtuns in Kandahar city. That is the future the Taliban offer Afghanistan. The best weapon against cruelty is kindness, the best weapon against such hard and harsh power is soft and smart power. The promise of development could turn many more fighters away from the Taliban if used correctly. This is especially so when the fighters/locals are the ones who would be doing the actual work, for they can then take "ownership" of the projects.
This pertains not just to Afghanistan or its Pashtun population, but to the wider AfPak strategy- it pertains to this country that's not on any map called "Pashtunistan".