From today’s New York Times.
“Government officials seeking to break up hundreds of small independent militias in the volatile northern province of Kunduz have ordered more than 4,000 members to surrender their weapons within 20 days or face a military crackdown, threatening more violence in a region where security has steadily eroded over the last two years.
The militias in many cases piggybacked on an officially sanctioned American-financed program to recruit local men for police patrols to fight off the Taliban, an effort that has been tried in other parts of the country with varying degrees of success.”
The American financed program called the Afghan Local Police (ALP) is modeled on the Sons of Iraq initiative that armed and supported 100,000 Iraqi militia forces.
“This is an important program because no one protects their home like a homeowner and this really mobilizes a community. When community representatives, shura council members, nominate their sons to defend their village, their valleys, this is them defending their community and showing their commitment to fight the Taliban." General David Petraeus – July 2011
"Where we have them trained and fully employed, the Taliban is not re-emerging," said Army Brig. Gen. Jefforey Smith, an assistant commanding general at the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan.
Afghan and coalition officials recently approved a plan that would allow the local forces to grow as large as 30,000, Smith said. The original plan authorized a force of 10,000.
In the report No Time to Lose released in May Oxfam had two recommendations to the United States and the Afghan Ministry of the Interior.
1) Suspend further expansion of the ALP program until appropriate vetting, training and oversight can be assured, previous initiatives have been evaluated, and credible, independent monitoring of the program has been established. The planned expansion of the ALP risks further stretching the ability of both USFORA and the MoI to ensure the program’s integrity and to mitigate the risk of the program being subverted in the interests of local commanders. Crucially, the ALP must not be established in the absence of a credible, tribally balanced shura comprised of respected elders with genuine capacity to provide oversight; and recruits must be subject to the same disciplinary regulations and oversight mechanisms that apply to the main pillars of the ANP. The findings (and methodology) of independent monitoring of the program should be made available to the public.
2) Terminate community defence initiatives falling outside the formal structure of the ANP, and suspend all government funding for such initiatives. This requires greater coordination between the national and district governments regarding the roll-out of the ALP program. In areas where non-ALP community defence initiatives exist, the MoI should – in consultation with communities and civil society groups – ensure that the members of such groups are disciplined/prosecuted as appropriate, or where requested by communities (and subject to the above recommendation), transitioned to ALP. USFOR-A/MoI should also step up efforts to promote community understanding of the ALP program, with a view to making it more difficult for groups not sanctioned by the MoI to operate under the banner of ALP.