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02/07/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

To Arm The Afghan Tribes Or Not? Let's Start With An Evidence-Based Approach

One of the presumed parts of Obama's Afghan strategy will be to look at ways of coopting the country's various tribes, much like General David Petraeus did it in Iraq. The idea has sparked off a torrent of criticism in the foreign policy community.

One of the smartest young Democratic things, Brookings security expert Vanda Felbab-Brown, wrote to Obama that his administration should cultivate Afghan tribal leaders, but it would be a mistake to expect them to play a military role in the counterinsurgency. Michael Williams, the US-born British academic spoke for many when he called the idea "a very high-risk strategy that cuts directly against counter-insurgency theory and will most likely be seen in hindsight as a serious mistake."

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