For at least the sixth time in as many years, there’s a new effort underway to form up local militias to protect Afghan communities from Taliban attack. Only don’t call them militias. NATO’s preferred term, this time around, is “Afghan Local Police.” Think of them as neighborhood watch – a neighborhood watch with AK-47s.
As usual, the local fighters will wear blue, carry automatic weapons, and — in the beginning, at least — collect a modest paycheck from NATO. But besides a new name, there’s at least one key difference between this militia and its predecessors. Unlike attempts numbers one through five, the latest local-police program was initiated by Afghans, and will quickly transition to Afghan control. Those are the best reasons to bet on its success … if you’re the type to make risky bets.
On Monday, Afghanistan’s new year, the first batch of around 50 trainees from Pul-e-Alam district arrived at Forward Operating Base Shank, in northern Logar province 50 miles south of Kabul, for induction and a few minutes of drill-and-ceremony instruction using a single red-painted, mock AK-47.
Watching the motley crew shamble through their marches, it was easy to dismiss them as soldier wannabes. But history proves that local guys, adequately armed and trained, can make the difference between victory and defeat in the early hours of a Taliban assault.