It seems that the newest wiggle in our Afghanistan program is to up the pay for Afghan soldiers to something more than the Taliban pays its boys. We will outbid the bad guys for troops. At the same time I read a lengthy article about how we can only win by becoming better informed, and more aware of, the complex rules and intricate relationships of Afghan tibal life. Well just what is the truth? Does better understanding or higher pay put us on the winnng side?

I suggest we take another look at how Hernan Cortez conquored the Aztec Empire with a handfull of Spanish soldiers. Cortez did the seemingly impossible by recruiting warriors from tribes subjecated by the Aztecs to fight on his side. In effect it was locals backed by the Spanish who conquored the Aztecs. However, in the end the Spanish ruled over all the indiginous peoples.

We followed Cortez’ lead in 2001 when we overthrew the Taliban regime in Afghanistan by recruiting disaffected tribes with money and arms to do the job. It worked well, the Taliban were out in a matter of weeks. One could say our subsequent failure to lock-in the new situation came from trying to replace a mosaic of various clans ruled by local chiefs with a strong central government, exactly the same plan followed by the Soviets before.

So what to do now? I still insist that we go back to the successful neo-Cortez strategy of continuing to pay off disaffected tribes to keep the Taliban and its allies out of office. In essence, combine a better understanding of traditional Afghan rule, which means knowing which groups do not like the Taliban and its ally Benny Laden and his gang, and supplying them with sufficient arms and funds to keep Afghanistan free of Taliban rule and terrorists.