| GEO World|
| US 'helps build anti-Taliban militias' in Afghanistan|
| Updated at: 1113 PST, Sunday, November 22, 2009|
WASHINGTON: The United States has begun helping a number of anti-Taliban militias in several parts of Afghanistan in hopes for a large-scale tribal rebellion against the radical Islamic movement, USís New York Times reported late Saturday.
The newspaper said US and Afghan officials were planning to spur the growth of similar armed groups across the Taliban heartland in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
The officials say they are hoping the plan, called the Community Defense Initiative, will bring together thousands of gunmen to protect their neighborhoods from Taliban insurgents, the report said.
By harnessing the militias, the officials hope to rapidly increase the number of Afghans fighting the Taliban, the paper noted.
That could supplement the American and Afghan forces already in the country, and whatever number of American troops President Barack Obama might decide to send.
The militias could also help fill the gap while the Afghan Army and police forces train and grow, The Times said.
"The idea is to get people to take responsibility for their own security," the paper quoted an unnamed senior US military official as saying. "In many places they are already doing that."
However, the growth of the anti-Taliban militias runs the risk that they could turn on one another, or against the Afghan and US governments, the report said.
US officials say they will keep the groups small and will limit the scope of their activities to protecting villages and manning checkpoints, The Times noted.
The officials also say they will tie them directly to the Afghan government. These checks aim to avoid repeating mistakes of the past -- either creating more Afghan warlords, who have defied the government?s authority for years, or arming Islamic militants, some of whom came back to haunt the United States, the paper pointed out.