I Hope My Neighborhood Watch Doesn’t Use Kalashnikovs…

Posted: November 14, 2009 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
"Think anyone will notice that the Afghan government are the actual criminals around here?"

"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!”


Just your standard-issue 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* a good way to stabilize 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.

  1. There wasn’t a single word in the article that talked about arming Afghan villagers. CDI is all about empowering villages and settlements that have stated and demonstrated a desire to resist insurgents. Thus the citizens involved will already be armed. Coalition forces will partner with and live in the villages, help them organize their defenses, and focus development projects in the areas. Community leadership will develop their own security and development plans under the program as well. The targeted development piece is the largest component of this program, in my opinion.

    This is a grassroots, bottom-up program, and it will not work all over the country or in every community. I read the civilian-based defense link above, though, and I think this program is pretty close to that philosophy: a community soundly rejects the taliban, and, aided by the coalition, they organize their defenses and design their own plan for development. As a Christian I would lose no sleep at night helping a community that desires to resist the taliban, their night letters, and their assassinations, do so (although I would probably lose some sleep on guard duty!).

    • dcrowe says:

      hi wilsonrofishing:

      The USA TODAY article doesn’t explicitly say “we’re buying them weapons and giving them to them,” but my read seems to imply that and Nathan Hodge’s read seems the same. If you have a link that explicitly states otherwise and it’s credible, I’ll post it in the main body of the story as an update. In Wardak, however, a similar program certainly did “train and equip” the locals.

      You said:

      As a Christian I would lose no sleep at night helping a community that desires to resist the taliban, their night letters, and their assassinations, do so (although I would probably lose some sleep on guard duty!).

      Can we talk a little bit more about this? I think it’s a potentially fruitful discussion. I think we agree that the Taliban must be fought, and the only issue is with what means, and I’d like to know a little more about how your faith sets the boundaries on what means are permissible.

  2. DC, I believe the experiment in Wardak is called the Afghanistan Public Protection Program; and I believe that the personnel there are subordinate to the Afghan National Police, wear uniforms, and are paid by the ministry of the interior (like the police); this program is different from the CDI that you are highlighting here.

    To expand on the personal point I made at the end of my previous comment, I feel that if a community wants to defend itself against an organization that relies on intimidation and violence to exert its will, I have no issues with that, and find it very clear cut.

    I believe in a previous post I wrote about the town of Nawa in Helmand province. Leaders in the village organized a community council and started organizing their town and conducting development planning; last month the Taliban executed the council’s leader and threatened others with night letters. I think it is a moral imperative to protect one’s community from this kind of thing, hence I have no issues with CDI. . .

    • dcrowe says:

      No problem here re: a community defending itself from the Taliban; I just reject the idea that violence is the strongest defense a community can mount.

      Do you mind talking more about the personal point you made re: being a Christian and having no problem? If not, that’s fine, no worries. But if you’re willing to share more about how you connect your faith to the way you approach these questions, I think it would be good discussion. But again, if you’d rather not, that’s fine too.

  3. dcrowe says:

    I think so…I show no others pending.

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