• counterinsurgency force in Afghanistan.

    By Lorenzo Tugnoli

    In late 2009 I travelled to the unstable Wardak province with an Afghan-American journalist. We wanted to meet former Taliban who are now working for the government as part of the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF or AP3) and to have a close look at the first experiment of a strategy that is now spreading in other parts of the country.

    The program was established early 2009 in response to a shortfall of troops in the Afghan army and police and the worsening security situation. Wardak is a crucial province just outside the capital Kabul. It is bisected by the country’s main national highway. In the last few years the Taliban staged a comeback leaving government control tenuous except in the district centre.

    Local militias are not unknown to American Special Forces. They were employed to fight the Taliban in the early stages of the war in Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004. But later, this policy was abandoned because U.S. officials began to worry that by arming the tribes, they were encouraging Afghanistan’s old curse of warlordism. They started focussing instead on developing Afghanistan’s national army and police and carried out several campaigns to disarm militants and gather up their guns.

    Militias have come back in fashion over the past years and are used in important areas where the government is in danger of losing control. This is all done in an attempt to quickly provide some forces to fill the gap while additional Afghan National Army and Police are being trained.

    What works in other theaters, such as the Iraqi Awakening, may not work in Afghanistan where 30 years of war has left the tribes scattered and attenuated. It’s still unclear if the plan will be effective, and the poorly trained AP3 forces will succeed in keeping peace in volatile areas.