Viagra makes old Talibs talk…

The Australian

Viagra the way to an Afghan warlord’s heart?

* Unfortunately the report doesn’t mention  whether ol’Talib will hate kuffars more or less for this…

THE CIA is using Viagra to entice Afghan warlords into supplying information on Taliban movements and supply routes.

Reports yesterday said US intelligence officers were offering the pharmaceutical enhancements to ageing Afghan chieftains and warlords burdened with their duties as tribal patriarch and husband to several younger women.

The Washington Post reported that while the CIA had a long history of buying information with cash, the growing Taliban insurgency had prompted the use of novel incentives and creative bargaining to gain support in some of the country’s roughest areas.

CIA officials told the paper that in their efforts to win over notoriously fickle warlords and chieftains, the agency’s operatives had used a variety of personal services. These included pocketknives and tools, medicine or sweets for ailing family members, toys and school equipment, tooth extractions, travel visas, and, occasionally, pharmaceutical enhancements for ageing patriarchs with slumping libidos.

“Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people – whether it’s building a school or handing out Viagra,” one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours told the paper. Officials said the inducements were necessary in Afghanistan – if the Americans did not offer incentives, there were others who would, including Taliban commanders, drug dealers and even Iranian agents.

The usual bribes of choice – cash and weapons – were not always the best options, Afghanistan veterans told the paper.

Guns too often fell into the wrong hands, they said, and showy gifts such as money, jewellery and cars tended to draw unwanted attention.

“If you give an asset $US1000, he’ll go out and buy the shiniest junk he can find, and it will be apparent that he has suddenly come into a lot of money from someone,” Jamie Smith, a veteran of CIA covert operations in Afghanistan and now chief executive of SCG International, a private security and intelligence company, told the paper.

“Even if he doesn’t get killed, he becomes ineffective as an informant because everyone knows where he got it.”

The key, Mr Smith told the paper, was to find a way to meet the informant’s personal needs in a way that kept him firmly on your side but left little or no visible trace. “You’re trying to bridge a gap between people living in the 18th century and people coming in from the 21st century,” she said. “So you look for those common things in the form of material aid that motivate people everywhere.”

Among the world’s intelligence agencies, there was a long tradition of using sex as a motivator, the report said.

Robert Baer, a retired CIA officer and author of several books on intelligence, told the paper that the Soviet spy service was notorious for using attractive women as bait when seeking to turn foreign diplomats into informants.

“The KGB has always used honey traps, and it works,” Mr Baer said. For American officers, a more common practice was to offer medical care for potential informants and their loved ones, he said. “I remember one guy we offered an option on a heart bypass,” Mr Baer told the paper.

For some US operatives in Afghanistan, Western drugs such as Viagra are just part of a long list of enticements available for use in special cases.

Two veteran officers familiar with such practices told the paper Viagra was offered rarely, and only to older tribal officials for whom the drug would hold special appeal.

While such sexual performance drugs were generally unavailable in the remote areas where the agency’s teams operated, they had been sold in some Kabul street markets since at least 2003 and were known by reputation elsewhere, the report said.

“You didn’t hand it out to younger guys, but it could be a silver bullet to make connections to the older ones,” one retired operative familiar with the drug’s use in Afghanistan told the Post.

Afghan tribal leaders often had four wives – the maximum number allowed by the Koran – and ageing village patriarchs were easily sold on the utility of a pill that could “put them back in an authoritative position”, the official told the paper.

Not everyone in Afghanistan’s hinterlands had heard of the drug, leading to some awkward encounters when Americans delicately attempted to explain its effects, taking care not to offend their hosts’ religious sensitivities, the report said.

The CIA declined to comment on methods used in clandestine operations.

Agencies