Monday, January 19, 2009

US to arm militias, says UN official

From AFP:

Afghans Wary Of "Militia" Plan

KABUL, Jan 9 (AFP) - A U.S.-backed plan to form local forces to fight insurgents, like those that had some success in Iraq, has met with alarm in Afghanistan...

Under the program, the United States would give members of certain local communities training, clothing and other supplies to "restore their own capacity to protect themselves", [US Ambassador] Wood said.

They would be linked into military back-up but the United States would not provide them with weapons, he said...

These groups would likely have weapons. But officials have been vague about who would supply them, with some saying it would be the interior ministry and also insisting the groups could not be called "militias" as they would fall under government supervision...

Observers said it would be better to reinforce the Afghan police and army than set up militias that the government one day might not be able to control.

"We are concerned," said Nader Nadery from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission.

"We have tried to disarm groups for many years now, and this means to rearm some people," he said, referring to a UN-backed government program to persuade the country's myriad armed factions to hand in their weapons...

A UN official said the organization was "absolutely against" the plan.

Despite Wood's assurance to the contrary, the official, who did not wish to be named, said the guards would likely be armed through the United States, which is supplying arms to the fledgling Afghan police and army, and there was a risk the weapons could one day be used against official forces. (link)

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