Afghan security firms provide armed escorts for NATO convoys.  Some firms lost their employment because of violent incidents where they killed civilians.  But NATO Convoys them suffered greater attacks and the security firms were re-employed.  There is an obvious incentive problem:

“The officials suspect that the security companies may also engage in fake fighting to increase the sense of risk on the roads, and that they may sometimes stage attacks against competitors.

The suspicions raise fundamental questions about the conduct of operations here, since the convoys, and the supplies they deliver, are the lifeblood of the war effort.

“We’re funding both sides of the war,” a NATO official in Kabul said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation was incomplete, said he believed millions of dollars were making their way to the Taliban.”

This is a Mafia tactic: To get people to pay from protection, you have to create the demand for protection.  Supply creates its own demand.  There is also a reverse effect:  The security firms sometimes bribe the Taliban to keep away from the convoys.  With this source of steady income, the Taliban have no incentive to disband and may even have an incentive to expand.  Demand creates its own supply.

The second circle seems less pathological than the first.  If we cannot find the Taliban ourselves and kill them or bribe them then to stay away from the convoys, we have to use a local security firm.  The security firm is an intermediary, adding value and generating surplus.  The first circle is destroying surplus, like the Mafia.  It is creating a public bad, a security problem, to generate a transfer.

Beyond punishing anyone who is caught planning a deliberate attack, it is hard to see any simple solution.  Fewer and fewer countries want to be involved in Afghanistan and so using our own troops is difficult.  The Taliban might prefer to be employed in the real economy.  But the main alternative to attacking NATO convoys is growing opium.  Is that any better than attack and theft?

The entire episode signals that Afghanistan is a Mafia state with leaders acting an profit maximizers, destroying surplus to capture a bigger slice of what’s left of the economic pie.   A depressing state of affairs after eight years of war.