Canada opposes US plan to arm Afghan militias

December 22nd, 2008 - 11:24 am ICT by IANS  

TalibanToronto, Dec 22 (IANS) Canada, which has more than 2,500 troops fighting in Afghanistan, has rejected the American idea of arming rival tribal militias to contain the Taliban there.The American proposal to arm tribal militias to counter the Taliban could be “counter-productive”, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay told the Canadian Press in an interview Sunday.

He said the idea was discussed at last month’s meeting here of defence ministers of the nations fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Though there was no agreement on it, the Americans have decided to carry out a pilot project in eastern Afghanistan to see the efficacy of the idea even as Washington sends 30,000 more troops into the war-torn country.

Insisting that Canada will stick with the policy of training the Afghan forces to tackle the situation after Ottawa pulls out its troops in 2011, MacKay said: “The tribal militia idea that has been around for some time now is controversial; we are not onboard with that.

“Our preference is to continue with this more formal training process that leads to a more reliable, more professional soldier and Afghan national security force.”

The idea to arm local Sunni Afghan tribes to fight along with NATO-led coalition has reportedly been mooted by US General David Petreaus who is in charge of the American forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Americans used this idea successfully to contain violence in Iraq’s Anbar province. But critics say Afghan tribal society is very complex.

Voicing his concern, the Canadian defence minister said: “Not all of the tactics and not all of the decisions made in Iraq are applicable in Afghanistan. It could turn out to be counter-productive, and that’s why we’re using the preferred option of the training process.”

The Canadians, who have lost 103 troops so far, have decided to wind up their Afghan mission by December 2011.

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