KHAR NIKAH, Afghanistan — Inside a cold room surrounded by sand-filled Hesco barriers in the remote Gereshk Valley, British forces are teaching a group of young Afghan fighters how to protect their village from the Taliban.
But preparing a group of angry, illiterate Afghans to fight a deadly enemy that is regularly testing the British forces here in northern Helmand Province is a monumental task. The villagers who have opted to join the Afghan Local Police force in Khar Nikah mistrust one another, say they are not being offered much pay and complain that they need better weapons.
Local defense programs have become a vital part of military strategy in Afghanistan. The programs began after an incident in summer 2010 when dozens of rifle-toting farmers from Gizab, a strategically important area in Kandahar, drove the Taliban from their village. Following that successful local uprising, the United States was keen to replicate the model for village defense, and the United States has since sent in troops to train local villagers.