A 25-year-old man we will call Shakir has told IRIN he rues rejecting an offer of “work” from a Taliban agent whereby he would get 500 Afghanis (about US$10) a day for carrying out attacks on government offices in Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan.
Those who accepted the offer are better off, he thinks.
“People are jobless, hungry and destitute so they agree to do anything for a small payment,” he told IRIN, refusing to give his name for fear the insurgents would kill him.
The Farah ring-road linking southern and western provinces is risky for relief convoys. Dozens of food aid trucks hired by the UN World Food Programme (WFP) were attacked there in 2008, and Farah Province is seen as a hotbed of insurgency: two districts have been taken over by the insurgents in the past two years, according to local officials.
Corruption is turning more people toward the fundamentalist Taliban, which is seen as clean in comparison. The Taliban may be remembered for its harsh rule, but it also is remembered for enforcing that harsh rule. No one took bribes. Most of the country was secure.
Shakir was deported from Iran three times in 2006-2008 and his efforts to find a job in his home district of Pushtroad have been unsuccessful. “I cannot marry and start a family because I have no money… Wherever I go [for work] I return empty-handed,” he said.
“The Taliban pay 500-1,000 Afghanis [$10-20] for a day of action against government and American forces,” said Lutfullah, 23, from Helmand Province.
By contrast, government employees get less than $2 a day.
The insurgents are able to fund their activities thanks to hefty sums from the drugs trade, the abduction of aid workers and foreign nationals for ransom, and through other criminal activities.
According to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report, in 2008 “war-lords, drug-lords and insurgents… extracted almost half a billion dollars of tax revenue from drug farming, production and trafficking.”
Poverty drives insurgency?
Insurgency-related violence and insecurity have increased significantly over the past two years, causing a growing number of civilian casualties, displacement and the deterioration of living conditions across the country, according to the UN and other aid agencies.
Insurgents are capitalising on poverty, unemployment, weak governance and overall disenchantment with post-Taliban rebuilding and development, experts say.
Most of the young men who join the Taliban and carry out suicide attacks are “poor, uneducated, and easily influenced”, according to a 2007 UN study on the nature of suicide attacks in Afghanistan.
In the south and east some of the survival options available to young men include drug addiction, illegal migration to Iran and other countries, or joining the insurgency, people and experts say.
As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said, “the misery of people caught in unresolved civil conflicts or of populations mired in extreme poverty… may increase their attraction to terrorism.”