Some tribes have forced insurgents from their area, but many risks remain.
Mark Sappenfield/The Christian Science Monitor
Now, the United States increasingly wants to encourage other tribal elders in Afghanistan to do the same. In what is taking shape as a substantial policy shift, it wants to use tribes to bring law and order to the vast areas of the country beyond the government's authority.
The government is not competent enough to deal with the dire threats now facing Afghanistan, says Seth Jones, an analyst at the RAND Corp., a security consultancy in Arlington, Va., that works with the Pentagon. "This means working with the tribal leaders," he says.
Such a policy promises great risk and reward. Done carelessly, it could unleash the tribal and ethnic forces that led to civil war in the early 1990s, warns tribal leader Mr. Zahir, as well as analysts. Yet his experience – and that of aid agencies and local law-enforcement officials – suggests that tribal elders can often deliver results that the government alone cannot.
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