The Times of London is sticking by its story that Italy paid bribes to the Taliban in the Sarobi area, east of Kabul, last year while on patrol. The French took over the territory believing it was relatively quiet, and within a month suffered 10 casualties and 21 injuries. Both the French military and the Italian government deny the report, but surely this won't make those NATO meetings very pleasant. There was already discord among the NATO countries regarding duty in Afghanistan--we saw it firsthand in 2005, when the situation was relatively good--and although not necessarily related to the Times report, French president Nicholas Sarkozy is refusing to increase the Gallic contingent.
Great Britain, however, is--500 additional soldiers to its approximately 8,300. And Bob Shepherd, a SAS veteran and security contractor who has traveled through most of Afghanistan between 2004-2009, believes this is flawed.
"You could put 40,000 in Helmund alone and it won't make a difference," he said. "It's just going to mean more deaths to soldiers and more money, and right now we can't afford it. Britain is about to implode--I don't know how you (in the U.S.) are doing, but we can't afford to bethere."
As for the potential to pay off the Taliban, Shepherd points out that "Mullah Omar and his people won't negotiate with the U.S. and coalition forces, but the people below him will, as long as they get paid something. Forget a surge (like in Iraq)--you have to pay money and a lot, but the question is, how are you going to get it together, and how long are you going to do it? We're all in tough, tough times right now."