President Obama is signing into a law a new bill which, among other things, includes a provision allowing the US to offer Taliban fighters money to put down their weapons and leave the insurgency in Afghanistan. This follows a similar scheme which operated with some success in Iraq. The idea is that ex-insurgents will be paid to defend their towns instead of attack them, and once the war is over will easily fit back into whatever passes for normal society.
This is another triumph for pragmatism over ideology in America's approach. If the promise of democracy and freedom isn't enough to convince Afghans to leave the Taliban, then the promise of a few quid and a steady job might be. It makes a bit of a mockery of the past rhetoric of US politicians including President Bush, which has often had a sort of 'our society is better than yours, we're giving it to you and you should be grateful for it' undercurrent to it.
But it would be wrong to assume the Obama people are the first to realise that hard cash might be more effective than western dogma in Afghanistan. In October 2001, the US bombing of Taliban positions initially had little obvious effect. Changing tack, the CIA quickly despatched operatives to Afghanistan with suitcases full of dollars, to literally buy off individual tribal leaders and warlords, getting them to stop supporting the Taliban. Only then did the US-backed offensive start to make any progress. This latest policy of the Obama administration helps show us that, for all of the west's efforts in Afghanistan since 2001, there's still an awful lot that hasn't changed at all.