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Updated 11/12/2009 10:41 AM ET
Security plan looks to Afghan villages in fight against Taliban
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.

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.

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Karzai's government had previously declined to sponsor such militias on a large scale, fearing they might pose a threat to its authority. By placing more responsibility for security in the hands of villagers, Noorzai said U.S. troops will be able to focus on more urgent matters at a time when the Taliban is on the rise. "With (little) money, we can accomplish a lot," he said.

The U.S. military will oversee the plan. It comes at a time when President Obama is considering broad changes to his Afghan war strategy, including whether to send up to 40,000 more U.S. troops and whether to focus more on security in urban areas.

The plan, known as the Community Defense Initiative, "is designed to assist the local population to provide their own security with defensive 'neighborhood watch'-type programs," the NATO command said in a statement in response to a query by USA TODAY.

The effort is similar in some ways to an initiative that helped turn the tide of the Iraq war in 2006 by paying members of Sunni tribes, including some former insurgents, to defend their neighborhoods.

Unlike in Iraq, aid will not go directly to individuals. Afghan villages that cooperate will receive roads, health clinics, fuel, and other aid, Noorzai said. He declined to provide an estimated cost for the program or an exact start date.

Noorzai said the Afghan government would hold tribal leaders "responsible and accountable" for any misbehavior.

Mark Moyar, a counterinsurgency expert at the Marine Corps University, said similar efforts in Iraq worked only when U.S. forces "blanketed their cities with a 24/7 presence." He said extra U.S. combat troops were still needed for that to happen in Afghanistan.

Posted 11/11/2009 11:03 PM ET
Updated 11/12/2009 10:41 AM ET
U.S. soldiers pull back from a farm field where they took cover from a Taliban attack Nov. 3 in Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officials agreed on a new nationwide plan to funnel aid to villages that help with security. U.S. soldiers pull back from a farm field where they took cover from a Taliban attack Nov. 3 in Afghanistan. U.S. and Afghan officials agreed on a new nationwide plan to funnel aid to villages that help with security.

By David Guttenfelder, AP