COIN genius Stanley McChrystal at one point argued that providing electricity for Kandahar would be a key to defeating the insurgency. In light of that, interesting story from WSJ:
LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan—The U.S. has poured more than $100 million into upgrading the Kajaki hydropower plant, the biggest source of electricity in south Afghanistan. And it plans on spending much more, in an effort to woo local sympathies away from the Taliban insurgency.
Yet, one of the biggest beneficiaries of this American-taxpayer-financed project are the Taliban themselves.
Since U.S.-funded repairs of a turbine at the Kajaki plant doubled its capacity in October, nearly half of the total electrical output has flowed to districts in Helmand province where the Taliban administer the grid, Afghan officials say. In those districts, residents pay their monthly electricity bills directly to the insurgents, who use the proceeds to fund their war with American and British troops.
But they are not just being parasite. They seem to be actually maintaining the grid to a degree:
Through an array of lines strung haphazardly atop bamboo poles, the Taliban have extended power to villages across that area, often earning local allegiance for bringing electricity to the remote countryside.
I find that fascinating, btw. What does it imply about Taliban motives, strategy, and our ability to co-opt them? I really don’t know.
But what it really does show is how difficult it is going to be to get credit even for the things we do well in Afghanistan.