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Late last year, U.S. forces in Afghanistan embraced the contentious policy of hiring out local militia groups to provide security in remote parts of the country. But now U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry is putting the brakes on the program, championed by General Stanley McChrystal. By resisting the strategy, which Eikenberry and other critics see as too risky and short-sighted, he is able to significantly slow its use in the field. Is he right? And what does his dissent reveal about the strategy and U.S. mission?

  • Bigger Split Within U.S. Leadership The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Greg Jaffe say Eikenberry "reflects a broader difference of opinion at the highest levels" over the issue. They write that military leadership wants a "decentralized grass-roots" approach focusing on local Afghans and circumventing the troubled Kabul government. But civilians like Eikenberry worry that "unless there is a detailed plan to connect these village security forces to Ministry of Interior oversight, they could fuel the rise of warlords and undermine the already fragile government in Kabul."
  • McChrystal Never Addressed Concerns Spencer Ackerman notes that he has long wondered about the strategy. Ackerman wrote when it was first introduced, "What will stop the Community Defense Initiative from yielding militias and warlords? McChrystal professed, a lot, to awareness of the hazards of partnering with local militias outside the bounds of the Afghan army and police. But he didn't explain how he'd mitigate those risks." And he still hasn't.
  • More Strategic Wishful Thinking Democracy Arsenal's Michael Cohen scoffs that we "don't understand" militias enough to make it work. He thinks it was another example of counterinsurgency theory coming before results. "Military tactics and political strategy should be based, at least in some measure, on what you can actually achieve - not merely what you want to achieve. U.S. policy in Afghanistan today sure feels like more of the latter than the former; and that's not a good thing."

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