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US deal with Afghan tribe promises to reduce Taliban strikes

The deal, in which a prominent tribe has agreed to help stop Taliban attacks in volatile Helmand Province, is being compared with successful efforts in Iraq to use tribal influence against the insurgency there.

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Members from the Taliban stand, after voluntarily handing over their weapons and joining the government, in the Sangin district of Helmand Province on Jan. 1.

Abdul Malik/Reuters

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An agreement between a prominent local tribe and US and Afghan forces in one of the most contested areas of Afghanistan to help stop Taliban attacks could mark an important moment in the war.

News of the deal has sparked much interest throughout Afghanistan and among NATO commanders, and drawn some comparison with efforts in Iraq to use tribal influence against the insurgency there. But it remains unclear how much it can achieve.

“This is very important for the people of Helmand and the government of Helmand. We hope that other areas will do the same thing and be encouraged by this example. Maybe in the future this process will get bigger and bigger,” says Daoud Ahmadi, the spokesperson for the governor of Helmand.

Tribal representatives speak only for their small collection of villages, not the entire tribe or district. So far, no other tribes appear to have made similar agreements.

Alikozai tribal elders, who say they were authorized to speak for the Taliban, approached local government officials nearly a month ago about creating a peace agreement in Sarwan Qala, a network of about 30 villages in Helmand Province’s Sangin district.

In exchange for the release of a local Taliban leader, the village elders agreed to stop Taliban attacks and no longer allow foreign militants into their area, says Shamsullah Sahrayee, a local analyst who is originally from Sarwan Qala but currently lives in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital.

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