So how much is a taliban?

The incredible silliness of buying out insurgents

Michael O’Hanlon and Hassina Sherjan inject some sense into the discourse over ‘negotiating with the taliban’. In the Daily Beast they write:

One idea voiced at London was to offer money to the Taliban to switch sides. This kind of approach must be handled delicately. While Afghans are suffering from a lack of sewage systems, roads, canalization, garbage collection or job opportunities, spending $146 million on reconciliation to pay off the Taliban is unacceptable to most Afghans.
If financial incentives are to be part of our approach to convincing former insurgents to support the government, there should not be discrimination in favor of the Taliban. That is not only unfair, it also creates perverse incentives for people to join the resistance first in order to be bribed by the government to switch sides. Economic incentives should be offered to communities willing to do their part in support of the building of the country. That approach can sometimes include former insurgents if there are adequate monitoring mechanisms on their future behavior, but they should not be the primary beneficiaries of government largesse. [The Daily Beast]

That’s similar to what Atanu Dey argued in Pragati in the context of an Indian government plan to purchase Naxalites. The real solution—as Bibek Debroy points out—is “governance, not public expenditure per se”