One of U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus' first moves after taking command of the nine-year-old NATO war effort in Afghanistan three weeks ago was to begin forming what the top U.S. military spokesman characterized as "community policing units" to help bolster local security in Taliban-plagued areas.
The impetus behind the scheme was simple enough. "We clearly do not have enough police forces to provide security in enough of the populated areas," top Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell admitted.
Nevertheless, reaction to the plan was swift and alarmed. Afghan President Hamid Karzai reportedly objected to it -- and for good reason. On no fewer than three occasions in the last three years, NATO has experimented with militias and local security forces. All these previous efforts failed, sometimes spectacularly.