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I Hope My Neighborhood Watch Doesn’t Use Kalashnikovs…

Posted by Derrick Crowe on November 16th, 2009

Note: Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. Learn how the war in Afghanistan undermines U.S. security: watch Rethink Afghanistan (Part Six), & visit http://rethinkafghanistan.com/blog.

"Think anyone will notice that the Afghan government are the actual criminals around here?"

If you only read the first paragraph of this Jim Michaels’ USA TODAY story, you might walk away with a nice feeling about civic life in Afghanistan:

KABUL — U.S. and Afghan officials have agreed on a new nationwide strategy that will funnel millions of dollars in foreign aid to villages that organize “neighborhood watch”-like programs to help with security.
Oh hey, a Neighborhood Watch program! That sounds like a great idea, right? Get those local citizens out in the streets, have ‘em keep an eye out for criminality and report it to local law enforcement, do community service projects, that sort of thing. Good idea, U.S. and Afghan officials!

The plan will provide an incentive for Afghan tribal leaders to form their own militias and guard against Taliban insurgents, says Mohammad Arif Noorzai, an adviser to President Hamid Karzai on security and tribal issues.

Wait, what? That doesn’t sound like calling in graffiti artists or phoning in a tip about a shady-looking person at the convenient store. Let’s ask Nathan Hodge for more details:

In Afghanistan’s Wardak Province, the U.S. military has overseen a modest experiment in giving Kalashnikovs, cash, and power to local militias to keep insurgents out of rural communities.

Now the Afghan government and the U.S. military are set to try the experiment on a much larger scale. Reporting from Kabul, Jim Michaels of USA Today describes the Community Defense Initiative, a program to create “neighborhood watch”-style militias in more villages throughout Afghanistan.

What the hell is the matter with you people?! Who looks at Afghanistan and says, “I know what this place needs! More Kalashnikovs!”

Kalashnikov
Just your standard Neighborhood Watch membership incentive…

And what is wrong with Jim Michaels?! Why would you think that a program to arm roving bands of local heavies with automatic rifles should be described as a “neighborhood watch”-like program? Only about halfway through the article do we find out that he borrows this little euphemism for a cash-and-bullets payoff scheme came from a NATO characterization. Jim! Do you get paid to do stenography for NATO? I thought you were a journalist. I only ask because it took me about 2 minutes to confirm my suspicion that the actual Neighborhood Watch program does not in fact hand out Kalashnikov rifles and bullets to local Joe Blows.

El Guapo
El Guapo: Not the best strategy for stabilizing Afghanistan…

The last thing Afghanistan needs is another shipment of weapons into the unstable areas. We already know that lots of our weapons end up in the hands of anti-government forces, who then use them to kill Americans and other Afghans. We would be much, much better off (to say nothing of the Afghans) enabling the local people to undertake civilian-based defense. But first things first: let’s get it through our heads that accepting benign euphemisms for violent, short-sighted policies only serves to obscure reality and cloud the policy choices before the United States.

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