If You Can't Beat Them, Let Them Join
Within a year, we must persuade large numbers of insurgents to lay down their arms or switch to the government's side. Afghanistan's doughty warriors have a tradition of changing alliances, but success will require both military operations focused on the insurgent leadership and, even more important, incentives for fighters at the local level.
Mid-level insurgents and their followers should be offered a chance to join a revised version of the Afghan Public Protection Force. These local self-defense forces should be expanded and tied to legitimate local governing structures — both official and tribal. The majority of development funds should be funneled to leaders to strengthen local governance and development and pay the militias' salaries.
Local self-defense forces in Colombia, Peru, South Vietnam and, most recently, Iraq, have proved very successful. The creation of a viable force like this is the single most important benchmark for the counterinsurgency effort in Afghanistan.
- Linda Robinson, the author of "Tell Me How This Ends: Gen. David Petraeus and the Search for a Way Out of Iraq"
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