Backing Afghan Militias Makes NATO Allies Queasy

Experts worry $1.3B from US won't buy loyalty of local fighters
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 23, 2009 9:43 AM CST
Members of the local tribal militia stand guard near a makeshift jail in a troubled area in the outskirt of Wana, a major town in South Waziristan, March 26, 2007.   (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud)

(Newser) – The US hasn’t given its Western allies the details of its plan to recruit and fund tribal militias to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan, fearing, correctly, that they won’t like it, the Guardian reports. The strategy is already under way in 14 areas, with a budget of some $1.3 billion to reward militias for stabilizing their areas with development projects, but not to buy arms, the paper says. Senior generals in Britain’s Afghan ministries worry that the US may be repeating failed strategies from the Soviet invasion.

Many in the international community also distrust Arif Noorzai, a Helmand politician the US is relying on to recruit militias.“It is not enough to talk to a few tribal elders and decide that you trust them,” says one skeptical British analyst. The special forces running the program, called Community Defense Initiative, report directly to Stanley McChrystal, not to NATO. McChrystal believes CDI will be faster and less expensive than the program favored by his predecessor, David McKiernan, to integrate militias into Afghan police.