Afghans fear creation of anti-Taliban militias could revive dreaded warlords

Thursday, February 17, 2011

LONDON - Afghans fear that the dramatic build up of a controversial anti-Taliban militia could revive the country’s detested warlords.

The local defence program known as Interim Security Critical Infrastructure (ISCI) program has also been put on hold amid concerns that the informal police force, with 800 men, is already bigger than the official police and could threaten government authority.

US marines in Marjah say they are using the same approach they successfully employed by awakening councils during the Iraq war. But problems are starting to show, and the district Governor Abdul Mutalib last week called in leaders of the 30 groups of up to 50 gunmen to make them sign up to stricter rules of behaviour.

“Around the country these groups are earning the hatred of the people,” The Guardian quoted the Governor as saying to the assembled men.

Marjah has great political significance in Washington where it is seen as a test of Barack Obama’s decision to send 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan last year.

Dave Hudspeth, the lieutenant colonel in charge of one of the two 1,000-strong marine battalions in the area, says the great advantage of locally recruited forces is that they can spot insurgents far more easily than outsiders, the paper said.

Each Afghan fighter receives 150 dollars a month, while the group’s leader gets 180 dollars and a startup fund of 5,000 dollars to buy weapons. That means the so-called block leaders, who collect the salaries, can get their hands on thousands of dollars every month, it added.

Despite a rigorous vetting process, the ISCI scheme has been hit by problems in Marjah with armed groups fighting against each other, the Afghan security forces and the marines.

There are also fears that Taliban sympathisers have infiltrated some groups.

President Hamid Karzai’s government, which has made no secret of its deep reservations over informal policing, fears recruits could eventually turn on the people they are supposed to be protecting, as many pro- and anti-Soviet militias did in the past. (ANI)

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