I've often seen the term "Toyota Taliban" used to refer to non-governmental 'aid' agencies and U.N. bureaucrats. I've even used it myself on occasion. What does it mean, and where does it come from? Here's an excerpt from U.N. Insider's June 04 summary:
In a letter from Kabul, British satirical biweekly Private Eye reported on the private life of international community members in the Afghan capital. It claims that only 16% of the $4.5 billion pledged at the Tokyo conference goes to the government; the rest in the hands of NGO; a term used to refer to "the well heeled" international staff of the U.N. and aid organizations who reportedly spend time shopping for wide screen tvs and laptops at a new Sony Centre. "Most other shopkeepers only ever glimpse them as they are driven past in one of the $75,000 Toyota Landcruisers most of them owned by the U.N. -- known here as the Toyota Taliban," the letter says, adding that the cruisers ferried them from office to restaurant to guest house. It continues: "There's a swimming pool at a central U.N. compound and regular parties and barbecues. Memories of a party held by the DHL courier group last November, when an opium pipe was passed around by U.N. staff, are still fresh. If boredom strikes, aid workers might also sign up for Tai Chi and Argentinean tango lessons."
Additional on-the-scene reports from Instapundit's Afghanistan correspondent Professor John Robert Kelly of Boston University, Congressional Chief of Staff Joseph Eule, and a Roger L. Simon commenter with 18 years experience in Afghanistan add further depth to the picture, in both positive and negative ways. This excerpt from John's comment is especially instructive:
"My experience with the UN over the past 18 years is in Afghanistan. Here's what I've seen since 9/11...sorry for the garritous length.
....An enormous and highly profitable international aid apparatus has assembled in Kabul and has largely ignored the input of the Afghan people or their largely American liberators; the latter stand by in disbelief as taxpayers contributions to Afghanistan disappear into outfitting the extravagant needs of European aid community. The UN pays $400 a day (more than a yearís pay for an average Afghan ) plus a generous per diem. This enormous aid infestation has fostered rightful resentment. The UN and associated NGOs ran through years of aid funding in a matter of months. Now when money cannot be found for reconstruction, the UN issues reports criticizing the parsimonious Americans. Meanwhile, the UN and NGOs live like pashas. Hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for Afghans have been transformed into fleets of top-of the-line Toyota Landcruisers, villas and estates to house their workers complete with swimming pools, an endless supply of underpaid servants, luxurious furnishings (accented with looted antiquities,) the latest laptops, video equipment, cases of Johnny Walker Blue and the bling bling ...perks that might even seem excessive to Ken Lay are justifiable expenses charged off to the US. No accountability, no oversight. They donít bother cooking the books, they donít even keep the books!
Afghan citizens fear that vocal objections to this patronizing treatment will result in economic reprisals by the UN...."
Amazingly, the story gets worse as one continues. To say that John is upset about all this is a massive understatement. Then we have posts from some U.S. State Dept. folks at the Diplomad, who have chronicled this phenomenon (and the U.N.'s pathetic response) in the wake of the recent Tsunami. See: Almost fUNny | UN Death Watch | Things That Make You Say 'Blah!' The UN Response to the Tsunami.
Perhaps this should not be surprising with respect to the U.N., whose makeup and structure nearly guarantees this sort of "Toyota Taliban" behaviour.
What's eminently clear is that non-governmental NGO "do-gooders" and international bodies deserve closer scrutiny than they usually receive, and require rigorous accountability mechanisms that include the threat of public exposure.