Standing up an Afghan militia
The key to the success of these militia is the contribution of US and other forces to help them organize a defense and call in supporting arms if they come under attack. That is the way the Marines did it in the combined action platoons in Vietnam, none of which were over run during the Tet offensive. Similar organization worked in Iraq. When we started protecting the people we started getting intelligence on the enemy.
Finger on the trigger, Zikria stands ready to defend his village from the Taleban. Great hopes rest on the old man’s only right-hand finger — the others were blown off by a grenade during Afghanistan’s civil war in the 1990s — because, as he points out, it is the important one for his new job.
Zikria and 183 other “Guardians” are the vanguard of the new “Afghan public protection programme”, or AP3 village defence force, in Jalrez district, a picturesque corner of Wardak province in Afghanistan.
The US-backed militia seeks to replicate the success of the “Sons of Iraq” volunteers who turned the apparently hopeless US war on its head. Resources to match the scale of its ambition are being poured into the district, where local people say Taleban fighters strolled openly only a few months ago.
Today they have given way to the green-clad figures of the AP3, who in Zikria’s case appear less “Sons of Iraq” than Afghanistan’s very own “Dad’s Army”. There are plans for 1,200 to be trained by the end of the year, doubling the Afghan security presence in Wardak.
The militia is founded on the argument that only local communities can identify and drive out the insurgents from their midst, an echo of counter-insurgencies from Malaya to the illfated “strategic hamlet programme” in Vietnam.