In the Arena

Afghan Awakening

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Sunday morning brings a glimmer of good news from Afghanistan, courtesy of the amazing Dexter Filkins. The U.S. is beginning to support tribal militia fighting the Taliban. This is important because the weakest link in the military’s Afghan plan is the idea that we can train a 250,000 man Afghan army and 150,000 police officers. It’s important to train up some organized security forces, especially for the more urban areas. But Afghanistan is a land of a thousand remote valleys and those are best defended by their residents, as they always have been. If the U.S.–and, especially, the Kabul government–can establish credibility as a friendly force that will provide economic, humanitarian and some tactical support, without demanding payoffs in return, there is a very good chance that the local tribes will reject the Taliban. Ultimately, this is the only way the situation can be stabilized. Let’s hope it works as well as it did in Iraq, although you always have to add the caveat: this is a very different, and more difficult, country.