As Registan readers know, forming and arming paramilitary groups in Afghanistan is not a new idea (Josh wrote of it most recently last year here). The British and the Soviets did it. Pakistan does it with its Pashtuns (or really, just kept the British programs in place). NATO has embraced the concept with gusto, creating the ANAP (Afghan National Auxiliary Police), AP3 (Afghan Public Protection Force), LDI (Local Defense Initiative), among others. The ideas exist for a year or two, the darling of a commander (who more often than not will refer to the idea as ‘Sons-of-Iraq-but-in-Afghanistan-I-think-you-call-it-arbakai?’), and then quietly are allowed to dissolve when the commander leaves and maintaining the discipline necessary to control a militia becomes too much for the units on the ground. The problem, of course, is that when these paramilitaries are no longer monitored, they rejoin the civilian ranks, with additional military training and guns. In a number of cases, these formerly NATO-bankrolled militia members have later turned up in insurgent ranks. Or on the communities they were supposed to protect, although I don’t remember NATO taking any tactical pauses when that came out.
Now, the latest incarnation of the militia idea, the Afghan Local Police (ALP), is being put on hold for a month. The Taliban it seems, have infiltrated the ranks as they said they would, taking advantage of the lax screening process (compared to the army and police), and turned on their trainers, killing five in the last week. Already this has been the deadliest year for green-on-blue attacks; a disproportionate amount are coming from the ALP. With this tactical pause, hopefully NATO will reconsider this latest militia idea and move away from it (get the guns back first, though, this time), and put more emphasis on the army and police (ANSF).
The formal ANSF are or will be shortly over 350,000 strong, have a more thorough vetting and training process, and are generally viewed much more favorably by Afghans than militias. And the ANSF need about all the help they can get. They will be what secures Afghanistan post 2014 (if anything does), not a few hundred militia units of varying quality and allegiance. In the main (please, don’t everyone who’s ever been on or near a VSO site think I’m saying they absolutely never work) the militias have not been a good use of time and effort. A better trained and mentored ANSF, however, are the best hope for some stability. So use this pause, NATO, to once and for all get rid of the militia idea.