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We’re Going to Arm Afghan Tribesmen All of a Sudden?

So a couple months ago I asked David McKiernan, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, what he thought of the idea of arming Afghan tribesman along a “Sons of Iraq” model. He really didn’t seem very keen on it. But that seems to have been then.

Via Noah Shachtman at Danger Room, Anna Mulrine reports for U.S. News that the Afghan Social Outreach Program I mentioned yesterday includes such Sons-of-Iraq-like behavior as arming ex-insurgents:

As in Iraq, the Afghan forces would be on the U.S. payroll, which officials hope will also entice some former insurgents to work with NATO forces. “We bring money so we can hire young men to be the first line of defense” in small towns throughout Afghanistan, says a senior U.S. military official in Kabul. “We wouldn’t be surprised if some of them used to be insurgents. We figure this is a way to crack the nut.”

Mulrine quotes McKiernan on this, so she can hardly be said not to represent his views. Interestingly, McKiernan tells her that U.S. troops are going to indirectly pick the Afghan recruits themselves for this initiative, convening shura councils of tribal elders who will nominate ASOP candidates. “We need to make sure we’re employing the right people to provide security for the population,” she quotes an anonymous official as saying.

Noah wonders:

But the Sons of Iraq also worked as a program because tribal leaders in Anbar were fed up with Al Qaeda in Mespotamia — and had already started to take matters in their own hands. Is their a similar seed of opposition in Afghanistan?

Good question. Here are two more: McKiernan worried aloud in October about creating another militia in a country with too many of them as it is. How is this not a militia? He also said that “tribal engagement, it has to be led by the Afghan government.” Is this led by the Afghan government? What’s the argument for doing this instead of expanding Afghan police/army recruitment?

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