Petraeus's first act is to establish militias to fight the Taliban

General persuades a reluctant President Karzai to sign up to tactics imported from Iraq

Armed militias of the type used to fight the insurgency in Iraq are to be introduced to Afghanistan in what is seen as a controversial part of the new strategy of General David Petraeus to counter the tide of Taliban attacks.

The setting up of the groups – who will provide up to 10,000 fighters – is the first major initiative by General Petraeus after taking over command of Western forces in the Afghan campaign following the sacking of his fellow American, General Stanley McChrystal.

The move, has, however, faced resistance from Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, who fears that the groups would become power bases for regional strongmen. His spokesman, Waheed Omar, said: "We don't want a short-term objective to endanger a long-term objective for security."

But General Petraeus, who used similar tactics in organising the so-called Sunni Awakening groups during the "surge" in Iraq, holds that local defence forces are vital in rural areas. They will help counter the Taliban while members of Afghan army and police forces are trained, as the chorus of Western politicians clamouring for a timeline for their forces to be withdrawn grows.

According to US sources, General Petraeus took personal charge of the intensive negotiations regarding the establishment of the militias. After 12 days of wrangling, he has managed to persuade the Afghan leader to accept his plan – passing a crucial first test in his relations with Mr Karzai after what has been a turbulent period, with the departure of General McChrystal and mounting Nato casualties.

More than 100 foreign troops have been killed in the past month, and another seven Americans were killed in attacks on Tuesday and Wednesday in southern Afghanistan.

However, the plan to arm Afghans, whose loyalties may be uncertain, is proving controversial. There was a startling reminder of the dangers this week, when a member of the Afghan army killed three British soldiers at Patrol Base Three in Nahr-e-Saraj. Eight months earlier, five British soldiers were shot down by an Afghan policeman in another part of Helmand.

Previous attempts to form irregular forces in Afghanistan have proved problematic, with government-licensed fighters accused of extorting money and favours from local populations.

Colonel Sheren Shah Kobadi, a senior Afghan army officer in Helmand, who would have to work alongside the militias, said yesterday: "My first reaction is that I am against it. This has to be handled very carefully, it has been tried before and has led to trouble. What we don't want are tribes turning on each other because some have government money and weapons and others haven't."

In an attempt to assuage Mr Karzai's concerns, the new apparatus will be formally put under the control of the Afghan interior ministry. "The size, salary and the period for which it will be required will be prepared by the interior ministry," said Hamid Elmi, another government spokesman. But with the ministry lacking the resources or the expertise to oversee such a project, it is expected that Nato's International Security Assistance Force will provide much of the training and funding.

Senior Nato officers have also expressed concerns about private armies already in existence – run, among others, by Mr Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, in Kandahar, the southern birthplace of the Taliban where a US-led military operation is due to take place later this year.

The militias are to be deployed in less inhabited areas, which have seen a drawdown of Western forces in accordance with General McChrystal's decision to concentrate on more populated centres. The groups are expected to be recruited from local communities, with liaison taking place at provincial level.

Taliban insurgents have repeatedly struck at militia groups formed to oppose them, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A suicide bombing aimed at such a group in Kandahar last month killed 40 people, while over a hundred died in another suicide attack at a similar target in Pakistan earlier this week.

Money provided by Nato forces to local leaders in southern Afghanistan to form anti-Taliban bands has also led in the past to friction, with complaints from the tribes that did not receive the subsidies. There were also claims that Western-sanctioned groups had used their power to intimidate and dominate.

But US officials insist that the new groups would be far better organised and managed. "These would be government-formed, government-paid, government-uniformed local police units who would keep any eye out for bad guys – in their neighbourhoods, in their communities – and who would, in turn, work with the Afghan police forces and the Afghan Army to keep them out of their towns," said Geoff Morrell, a Pentagon spokesman. "This is a temporary solution to a very real, near-term problem."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star