DATE: January 25, 2010

SUBJECT: Jobs for Afghans Applauds Reconciliation Program, Says Does not Go Far Enough

Hailing as historic the Karzai government's new focus on jobs and reintegration for ideologically uncommitted insurgents, Jobs for Afghans today applauded the Afghan Reintegration programs, but said it does not go far enough.  It is now widely known that the vast majority of insurgents are lured to the Taliban by its wage of approximately $10 per day, in a country where unemployment is 40 percent.  However, Jobs for Afghans says the plan should be expanded to provide jobs to young Afghans who have not joined the Taliban, and that the additional cost would be minimal compared to the continuing cost of military operations.

Ralph Lopez, co-founder of Jobs for Afghans, said:

"This is a solid start, but for a little more, why stop there?  First, it sends the message that we are rewarding those who have joined the Taliban, but what about Afghans who haven't?  They should have a stake in their country too. Second, we need a good economic "shock and awe" to convince Afghans things are going in a better direction.  It is not a time for half-measures."

Jobs for Afghans has been lobbying for an appropriation of about $4 billion to reverse the economically-driven insurgency.  They point out that this is the equivalent of what the US spends on military operations in 2 weeks. General Barry McCaffrey put the military "burn rate" in Afghanistan at $9 billion per month.

The Jobs for Afghans proposed legislation is at this link:

There is no shortage of work to be done in any part of the country, using mostly unskilled labor, digging irrigation waterways, clearing canals of rubble, and improving roads, all mostly requiring little more than hand tools.

The UN estimates that 35 percent of Afghans are malnourished, and starvation is still common in the country.  Previous development efforts emphasized structures like schools and clinics but provided few sources of income.

An AFP report states:

 "Despite initial reluctance to back the project, Karzai said the United States had now come round to the idea and would offer support. Asked about American support for the scheme, he said: "We have been talking about this issue of reconciliation for a long time. Now they actually are backing it."

Jobs for Afghans has been lobbying in Washington DC for an appropriation for a cash-for-work, stabilization program run by Afghans, for the benefit of Afghan communities, utilizing the highly regarded National Solidarity Plan of the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development as the conduit. 

"Afghans are not our enemies," said Lopez.

Jobs for Afghans maintains that this is the last chance to bring disaffected Taliban fighters into the fold, and to prevent more from joining..

"Otherwise, civilian casualties go up even further and the cycle of revenge takes on a tragic life of its own" says Lopez.  "Give them cash for the work of clearing the rubble of their communities, and digging irrigation ways, so they can go back to the traditional water and agricultural systems which have been sustaining these societies for centuries."

For more information, contact: Sue Serpa, 617-599-5195,

Jobs for Afghans
68 Pearl St.
Cambridge, MA 02139

Website and resources:


White Paper: "Stabilizing Afghanistan Through a Cash-for-Work Initiative"

Quotes and sources:

“Joining the Taleban gave Mahmud a chance to save up enough money to
start his own small business. Nowadays, he buys goods in the
provincial capital Lashkar Gah and sells them in the districts at
weekly "mila" or markets.  "Now that I have work, I am not with the
Taleban any more."” – Few Choices for Helmand’s Troubled Youth,
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Nov. 9, 2007

 "There is a low percentage of the total Taliban force who we  would
call ideologically driven. We refer to them as Tier 1 people who
believe their ideology, that what they're doing is right. The vast
majority of Taliban fighters are essentially economically
disadvantaged young men." --Col. Tom Collins, PBS Frontline, April
2,,, 2007,

“19-year-old Jaan Agha in Helmund Province told the Institute for War
and Reporting in November of 2007 that it was either the Taliban or
watch his family starve.  "I couldn't find a job anywhere.  So I had
to join the Taliban. They give me money for my family expenditures. If
I left the Taliban, what else could I do?" --“Few Choices for
Helmand’s Troubled Youth,” Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Nov.
9, 2007

“Children Eating Grass, Ghazni,” IRIN News, March 10, 2008

Other resources:

A Better Strategy for Afghanistan
By Dr. Jeffrey Sachs

The Truth Behind Afghan Insurgency, (Boston Globe)