The United States will make $1.3 billion available for a program that rewards Afghanistan's anti-Taliban militias with development money, according to unnamed officials quoted in The Guardian.
The $1.3 billion in development funds for militias and warlords adds to US spending in Afghanistan, which totals $3.6 billion per month. That cost could rise even more, if President Obama decides to escalate the war and send more US troops as predicted.
The US program, known as Community Defense Initiative, is already in place in 14 areas of Afghanistan. According to The New York Times, CDI is one of the most ambitious and riskiest plans to counter the Taliban:
The growth of the anti-Taliban militias runs the risk that they could turn on one another, or against the Afghan and American governments.
The Americans say they will keep the groups small and will limit the scope of their activities to protecting villages and manning checkpoints.
For now, they are not arming the groups because they already have guns.
The plan to bolster and reward Afghan militias follows a similar strategy used by the U.S. in Iraq, but Afghan military officials are reportedly worried about "what they see as a return to the failed strategies of the Soviet Union during its occupation of Afghanistan." An analyst elaborated those concerns to The Guardian:
Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network, said the US risked losing control over groups which have in the past turned to looting shops and setting up illegal road checkpoints when they lose foreign support.
"It is not enough to talk to a few tribal elders and decide that you trust them," Ruttig said. "No matter how well-trained and culturally aware the special forces are they will never be able to get to know enough about a local area to trust the people they are dealing with."