Some Reassuring News Out of Afghanistan?

June 15, 2006

In my last post I referenced the Washington Post article that reports of an increasingly desperate Afghan government “mull”ing about arming tribal militia in the south of the country in order to combat the Taliban. It is needless to rehash here again that such policies would be tentamount to repeating a disastrous experiment that threw Afghanistan into chaos in the 1990s as an increasingly desperate (foreign-backed) government then also resorted to arming the tribal militia. To cite a more contemporary case in point, take the example of Iraq where militia forces attached to one or the other political party have engaged in human rights abuses and sectarian violence.

In light of all this, the recent news out of Afghanistan about the government sanctioning the formation of tribal militia had really pre-occupied my mind. In fact, when an occasion arose today to ask about this from a well-placed source in the Afghan government (whose identity I cannot disclose without giving away my own too) I nearly jumped out of my seat at the end of the presentation and asked what the deal was with the government arming the militia.

I was glad to hear the speaker’s reassuring answer that all of this was the media’s usual misrepresentation of events in Afghanistan and that the government was in no way planning to arm the tribal militia. What the government is considering instead is to seek the help of villagers in defending southern provinces from the Taliban, and form squads in various locales in the south that would work closely with the local police forces to defend against the Taliban.

Great. So that’s what the big hoopla was all about?
I am just baffled by how the media can twist things around so much.