Special ops train Afghans to resist Taliban intimidation
Taliban fighters used to swagger with impunity through this farming village, threatening to assassinate government collaborators. They seeded the main thoroughfare, a dirt road with moonlike craters, with land mines. They paid local men to attack U.S. and Afghan troops.Karzai and Eikenberry are wrong. This is one of those times when you have to trust the people. As we demonstrated in Iraq, the bottom up approach is the most effective way of dealing with the insurgents. The top down model does not work and is prone to corruption which seems to be all too common in the Karzai government.
Then, beginning in late February, a small detachment of U.S. Special Forces soldiers organized nearly two dozen villagers into an armed Afghan-style neighborhood watch group.
These days, the bazaar is thriving. The schoolhouse has reopened. People in the area have become confident enough to report Taliban activity to the village defense force and the police. As a consequence, insurgent attacks have nearly ceased and U.S. soldiers have not hit a single roadside bomb in the area in two months, according to the detachment.
"Everyone feels safer now," said Nasarullah, one of two gray-bearded tribal elders in charge of the village force. "Nobody worries about getting killed anymore."
The rapid and profound changes have generated excitement among top U.S. military officials in Afghanistan, fueling hope that such groups could reverse insurgent gains by providing the population a degree of protection that the police, the Afghan army and even international military forces have been unable to deliver.
But plans to expand the program have been stymied by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who fears the teams could turn into offensive militias, the sorts of which wreaked havoc on the country in the 1990s and prompted the rise of the Taliban. "This is playing with fire," an Afghan government official said. "These groups may bring us security today, but what happens tomorrow?"
Citing Karzai's objections, Karl W. Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, has blocked the release of money needed to broaden the initiative. He also has instructed State Department personnel in the country not to assist the effort until the Afghan government endorses it.
In addition to sharing Karzai's concerns about what would happen to the local defense forces once U.S. oversight ends, Eikenberry and other embassy officials worry that the program would weaken the central government in the eyes of the public and compete with efforts to build up the nation's army and police.
We need to support the grass roots efforts to stop the enemy. That is how you protect the people and help them protect themselves. Eikenberry needs to be replaced and Karzai needs to be ignored in this situation.