Afghanistan, The Netherlands…and Viagra.

The day after Christmas, the Washington Post reported on a controversial tactic by the CIA to win the hearts, minds and perhaps other parts of some of the Afghan people.

According to the Post:

In their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the [CIA] officials say, the agency’s operatives have used a variety of personal services. These include pocketknives and tools, medicine or surgeries for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for aging patriarchs with slumping libidos…

Yes, they are referring to, perhaps among other “pharmaceutical enhancements”, that little blue pill, Viagra.

Our TMV contributors have already commented on this novel technique to, as Joe Gandelman put it, “Straighten Afghanistan Out.” In his post, Gandelman asks, “Will this stiffen Afghanistan resolve?”

In another post, “Afghanistan: CIA & Viagra,” Swaraaj Chauhan has a little warning for “the over-enthusiastic CIA guys distributing blue pills in the remote areas,” as to some possible unintended consequences. He also points to moral and legal aspects of this new CIA “weapon.”

There have been many other tongue-in-cheek, funny, irreverent and just plain off-color comments and reactions to the revelation.

But leave it up to the pragmatic Dutch to come up with serious, practical comments and reservations about this practice.

In Wathcing America’s “Making Friends in Afghanistan, With and Without Viagra,” Dutch Handelsblad editor, Juurd Eijsvoogel, plays down the long-term effectiveness of such an approach:

If only because globalization has resulted in most of the blessings of Western civilization having been long available at Tarin Kowt’s bazaars. Among DVD’s of “The Sopranos” and “24″, one can surely find the popular little blue pills. And it certainly won’t be long before the Taliban let the stuff come across the border on pack mules.

Eijsvoogel finds it understandable that the West would try new approaches to the war in Afghanistan:

Because the war is at an ugly dead end. The Taliban is active in more and more parts of the country. Violence is on the increase, including in and around the capital, Kabul. The Karzai government has less authority than ever. And last year, 294 foreign soldiers were killed, 62 more than in 2007. More than seven years after the overthrow of the Taliban, it is still unclear how the war can be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.

He is also proud of the lead role the Dutch are playing in peacekeeping efforts in the Afghan province of Uruzgan:

In December, the commander of the armed forces, General Van Uhm, reported that the area that the allies have managed to secure in Uruzgan–the so-called ink stain–is steadily growing. On the average, one roadside bomb explodes every week, but that is in contrast to the fact that three are detected in a timely manner.

Additionally, the Dutch Minister of Defense, Eimert van Middelkoop, also expresses pride and hope: “The ink stain is spreading,” he claimed—without the use of Viagra.

Eijsvoogel is critical of Washington’s changed and changing approach to the war in Afghanistan:

But as Dutch troops are performing their task, the nature of the war is starting to change around them. The government in Washington is convinced that it is not going well in Afghanistan–and that something must be done quickly. Not only are the Americans sending 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan. They are also going to put a stronger mark on the way the war is conducted.

For example, the troops are going to be busy fighting the drug trade in earnest. NATO had already so decided this fall, but in practice not much happened. A number of allies and commanders on the ground find that the military are not trained for that, and fear that by doing so it will set the population against the military.

And, The Americans will provide the local militia with money and weapons, so that they can help in the fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. The idea is that local communities have taken care of themselves from way back, explained the American Ambassador in Kabul. “The way to fight the Taliban now is to make those communities stronger, so that they themselves can protect their villages, fields, and valleys.”

According to Eijsvoogel,

Inside and outside of Afghanistan there are serious objections to that plan. Van Middelkoop does not like it; his Canadian colleague even expects that it will be counter-productive. Also, many Afghans, who still remember too well how they suffered under the violence of irregular armed groups, have a lot of anxiety about it. It was exactly because of the lawless nature of such groups that the Taliban were able to set themselves up as an alternative.

Until now, one of the most important objectives of NATO was to strengthen the central government in Kabul. To that end, it is working hard (and with some success) to build up the Afghan national army, and (with less success) the national police. Strengthening governance, justice, and the fight against corruption was also deemed crucial to make Afghanistan a viable state.

Apparently, Washington has now abandoned that ambition.

Eijsvoogel concludes:

Van Middelkoop said in Uruzgan that 2009 will be “a crucial year”–and it certainly looks that way. But that will have less to do with the performance of the Dutch military, than with the way in which the Americans still hope to win the war.

Coincidentally, it will also have less to do with the “performance” of Viagra-motivated Afghans.

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Author: DORIAN DE WIND, Military Affairs Columnist

  • worldcitizen246

    I am appalled at your obvious “gung-ho” attitude towards America's CIA allegedly offering VIAGRA to Afghanistan guerillas, in return for unhindered access within that strife-torn region.

    Did only male-PENISES, and not male-BRAINS spasm into cognitive life, in consideration of the repercussions likely to ensue, when the largely male-BRUTE populace of Afghanistan finds itself with sex-enhancement drugs/Gifts…to be “USED” ALONGSIDE THEIR WOMEN/CHILDREN-POPULACE “GIFTS?”

    I cannot get over this sick and sickening ABUSE of geo-political power! I also cannot get over the idea, that if more WOMEN were able to dilute some of the RANK TESTOSTERRONE that passes for “Male-Leadership” in America's Pentagon, this type of horrifically flagrant AIDING-AND-ABETTING-THE-GLOBAL-ABUSE-OF-WOMEN would not occur.