Kabul: The Afghan government said on Wednesday
it had begun recruiting thousands of militiamen to strengthen
security forces against a resurgent Taliban in remote villages
of the war-torn country.
President Hamid Karzai last month approved the
establishment of what his administration calls "Local Police
Force" -- recruited from among Afghan villagers in a bid to
guard against Taliban attacks in their communities.
Deputy interior minister Mohammad Munir Mangal told
reporters that the US-backed initiative was underway in
south-central provinces Wardak and Uruzgan, both hard hit by
"It will expand in the rest of the country very soon,"
Recruitment will kick off first in regions where
violence associated with the Taliban-led insurgency, now in
its ninth year, is most intense.
Once fully in theatre, the force will number about
10,000 men, Mangal said.
Mangal said the recruits would operate under the
interior ministry, which has authority over all Afghan police.
They will be paid about 60 percent of the regular police
salary, he added.
Karzai and the commander of foreign forces in the
country, US General David Petraeus, met for days before
reaching an agreement over creating the new force, according
to Afghan officials.
US media have reported that Petraeus, who took command
of nearly 150,000 US and NATO troops on July 4, had been
pushing for the establishment of Iraq-style tribal militias to
fight Taliban-linked militants in remote Afghan villages.
Critics are concerned about repeating mistakes made in
Afghanistan during the 1980s, when local militias were set up
during the Soviet occupation to fight the mujahideen uprising,
and then morphed into private armies.