Friday, October 10, 2008

U.S. plans to train Afghanistan tribal militias

You think we would have learned...

The US military, faced with a situation in Afghanistan that is rapidly falling apart, has come up with a new strategy - train and arm Afghan tribal militias. Under the new plan, US (and other Western) forces would do less fighting in Afghanistan and instead focus on training Afghani government forces and various tribal militias to take over the military operations.

Now, we tried this before in the 1980's (if you saw the movie "Charlie Wilson's War" all of this might sound familiar), when the CIA working with the Pakistani government trained and armed Afghan insurgents to fight against troops from the Soviet Union who had invaded Afghanistan in 1979. It worked, sort of - the Soviets eventually got fed up with a guerilla war they couldn't win and gave up. The problem was that a lot of the people we armed and trained turned out to be Islamic militants who then went on to form the core of the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

And we know how that turned out...

There are other flaws in this plan. The government in Afghanistan under President Hamid Karzai is very weak, in large part because warlords control much of the country, limiting his rule. This plan would work with both the government AND the warlords (who control the tribal militias), so in all likelihood it will only make Karzai's government weaker rather than stronger since it will, in theory, help the warlords to have better armed, better trained militias at their disposal.

The other problem is that Afghan militias and warlords are notoriously fickle. Last week 60 Minutes talked with a US Special Forces officer who led a plan to capture Osama bin Laden in 2002. The plan ultimately failed because the Afghan militias that had promised to help us wouldn't take action against bin Laden. What we doesn’t seem to realize is how complicated Afghan culture is and that bonds between tribes and clans mean far more than promises made to outsiders. In other words, just because we train an Afghani militia to fight al-Qaeda and just because they promise to do it, doesn't mean they actually will.

The new strategy is another indication about how bad things in Afghanistan have gotten and just how few good options the United States has to turn things around.
Sphere: Related Content

No comments: