US Backs Afghan Militias Against Taliban

Supporting local resistance, as in Iraq, is a delicate equation
By Jen Paton,  Newser User
Posted Nov 22, 2009 9:38 AM CST
An Afghan armed guard in the center of Kunduz, northern Afghanistan. The city of Kunduz, says Filkins, is the center of several armed groups actively resisting the Taliban.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The US is actively supporting local militia groups against the Taliban as American and Afghan officials move to encourage a demoralized Afghan population to re-engage in the war, reports Dexter Filkins of the New York Times. Tapping into the militias’ resources could fill the manpower gap as a vacillating White House decides how many troops to send in. Some are concerned, however, that these militias may turn against the Afghan government and its US sponsor.

In some cities, militias have defeated the Taliban and installed themselves as the local authority—something Afghan officials call illegal “warlordism.” Officials hope focused support—principally ammunition and food—combined with limiting the militias’ official remit to manning checkpoints and protecting villages, should mitigate the plan’s risk. Filkins notes the plan is similar to a successful initiative launched in Iraq in 2006, in which the US backed Sunni tribes against Islamic militants.