Afghan war may enter new phase

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“At the very, very basic level, the idea of coordinating — they are calling it community outreach — is probably the only way you could move relatively rapidly to counteract advances made by the Taliban. If you want to say that is the Anbar model, well sure,” Mr. Markey said.

On Saturday, Afghanistan Interior Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar announced the beginning of the Afghan Public Protection Force, a U.S.-funded program to train and arm local militias in troubled regions of the country.

However, the program, which has been compared to the Awakening Councils, has been received skeptically by some local leaders.

Associated Press quoted one Afghan official as saying that only criminals would join the force because most citizens wouldn’t want to face the Taliban in combat. Also, critics question the wisdom of handing out weapons to Afghans when the government and United Nations have been trying to reduce the number of arms in the country. They fear the plan could stoke rivalries between ethnic groups with a bloody past.

“One of the causes of violence in Afghanistan is because most people do not give up their weapons. Now you want to again give weapons to the villages?” said Mohammed Hussain Fahimi, the deputy of the provincial council in Wardak, where officials say the units will be first deployed.

“We never learn our lessons,” he told Associated Press.

Wardak lies southwest of the capital of Kabul and is increasingly falling under Taliban control, illustrating the growing influence of the Islamic insurgents in the years since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.

Mr. Fahimi was one of several government officials and residents interviewed in Wardak by Associated Press last week, all of whom expressed skepticism about the plan.

A senior military official who is familiar with the Centcom Assessment Team also warned against assuming that what worked in Iraq would work in Afghanistan.

“The dynamics of Iraq are, for the most part, unique to Iraq,” he said. “That does not mean that some elements of the strategy are not emulatable in Afghanistan. But there is no one formula.”

A scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and one of the authors of the Iraq counterinsurgency strategy, Frederick W. Kagan, largely concurred.

“There are elements particularly of conceptualization that are applicable in parts of Afghanistan,” Mr. Kagan said. “In terms of taking the program in Iraq and transporting to Afghanistan, though, that’s a nonstarter, that can’t work by itself.”

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