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Petraeus' first move: Proxy forces

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Longtime readers of this blog may remember that a couple of years ago, I was regularly running long compilations of civilian deaths at the hands of foreign forces (see, for example, here and here). Deadly incidents occurred every few days for months on end. More than once did the tally of civilians killed by western troops exceed that of civilians killed by the Taliban.

Evidence of such carnage has been thinner for over a year now, suggesting two possibilities: Either there were fewer civilians killed by occupation forces, or the incidents continued at the same rate while there was less reporting of them. Few doubt that General McChrystal's new stricter rules of engagement, aimed at winning Afghan hearts and minds, had resulted in less danger to the Afghan public. Soldiers were often quoted lamenting that their hands were tied by the new rules.

It is now widely known that General McChrystal's replacement, General Petraeus, has decided to reverse the earlier order, returning the rules of engagement to their former character.

In contrast, another of McChrystal's policy innovations has been treated with more interest. His efforts to introduce militias are being intensified by his successor:

Petraeus's first act is to establish militias to fight the Taliban
General persuades a reluctant President Karzai to sign up to tactics imported from Iraq

Kim Sengupta - The Independent

HELMAND, July 16 - Armed militias of the type used to fight the insurgency in Iraq are to be introduced to Afghanistan in what is seen as a controversial part of the new strategy of General David Petraeus to counter the tide of Taliban attacks.

The setting up of the groups – who will provide up to 10,000 fighters – is the first major initiative by General Petraeus after taking over command of Western forces in the Afghan campaign following the sacking of his fellow American, General Stanley McChrystal.

The move, has, however, faced resistance from Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who fears that the groups would become power bases for regional strongmen. ...

The militias are to be deployed in less inhabited areas, which have seen a drawdown of Western forces in accordance with General McChrystal's decision to concentrate on more populated centres. ... (link)

Militias, of course, are seen as a potential problem in and of themselves.

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