The New York Times reports today that US officials have begun something called a “Community Defense Initiative,” which essentially involves providing food and ammunition to tribal militias. The strategy resembles the Sunni Awakening that took place in Iraq in 2007. On the whole, this is good news: let the Afghans take responsibility for their own security.

I do have two concerns, however. Firstly, the success of the Community Defense Initiative will depend on how it’s managed. Giving arms to crazed, unpopular warlords will not only destabilize Afghanistan but make the US look bad–and Afghans and Muslims will blame any catastrophes that follow on the American government. My second concern is more long-term: it would be unwise to replicate the anarchic way of things that exist prior to the 1996 Taliban takeover. The Taliban were able to usurp power from warring tribal factions–a state of affairs that the Community Defense Initiative could result in.

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