Karzai agrees to creation of village defence force

     The Afghan government has approved a program to establish local defense forces that American military officials hope will help the country’s remote areas thwart attacks by Taliban insurgents. Though details of the plan are sketchy, but Americans have been insisting that such a force needs to be established to combat rising violence. The Afghan government has agreed to the proposal after over 12 days of talks. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new NATO commander, is reported to have overcome the objections of President Hamid Karzai, who was worried that the presence of such forces could harden into militias that his weak government could not control. In the end, the two sides agreed that the forces would be under the supervision of the Afghan Interior Ministry, which will also be their paymaster. “They would not be militias. These would be government-formed, government-paid, government-uniformed local police units who would keep any eye out for bad guys — in their neighborhoods, in their communities — and who would, in turn, work with the Afghan police forces and the Afghan Army, to keep them out of their towns. It is, he added, “a temporary solution to a very real, near-term problem,” said Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon spokesman, at a briefing in Washington on Wednesday. The program borrows from the largely successful Awakening groups that General Petraeus created in Iraq, though the two programs would not be identical, the New York Times reports. Unlike the Iraqi units, the Afghan forces would not be composed of insurgents who had switched sides. They would be similar as a lightly armed, trained and, significantly, paid force in a nation starving for jobs. In fact, the program runs the risk of becoming too popular — it will create a demand in poor communities around the nation that could turn it into an unwieldy and ineffective job creation program. While some American officials said the forces could have as many as 10,000 people enrolled, Afghan officials indicated that they wanted to keep them small, especially in the beginning. American military officials said they would be intimately involved, and that United States Special Forces units, which have created smaller-scale programs locally, especially in southern Afghanistan, would continue to set up and train the forces.

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