The price of paying off militants
John McCain and President Bush claim the 30,000-troop surge in Iraq is a success. They never talk about how the United States is buying cooperation among factions with cash and guns.
We pay Iraqi militants; allow them to arm, form militias and control their ethnic enclaves in exchange for stopping attacks on U.S. troops. We are currently spending millions of dollars monthly to pay an estimated 600,000 fighters in the three rival ethnic camps in Iraq (Shiite, Kurd and Sunni). Is this policy sustainable?
Money for peace was tried and failed in Afghanistan.
The United States gave cash and weapons to competing warlords and tribal groups in Afghanistan to buy their loyalty. When the payments stopped, their loyalty evaporated. Now we see a strengthened Taliban and escalating violence week by week.
Though insurgent attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq have slowed for now, the various militias dislike the government of Prime Minister Maliki, and all abhor the presence of U.S. troops on Iraqi soil. What happens when U.S. money and gun shipments stop or when militias become a force too large, powerful and well equipped to control?
There are thousands of trained (and unemployed) former army, Republican Guard and Special Forces who only need a structure to become a major fighting force in Iraq. Funding and equipping these militias may be providing just the structure they have been lacking.