WASHINGTON — The Arabs who vanquished Al Qaeda in Iraq's Anbar province are counseling America to allow Afghans to form irregular militias and be mindful of their devout adherence to Islam, according to a memo from the Anbar Awakening to the American Embassy in Kabul.
A rough English translation of the memo, which outlines an "awakening" strategy for Afghanistan and was originally prepared in Arabic at the request of the American deputy chief of mission there, Christopher Dell, was obtained by The New York Sun and confirmed as accurate by the military.
The Afghanistan front has been a worry for America and its NATO allies. During the weekend, terrorists carried out a daring jailbreak in Kandahar. General David Petraeus, who has been nominated to lead Central Command, which includes Afghanistan, has said he intends to reassess Pakistan's counterterrorism efforts in its northwest border provinces, believed to be home to Al Qaeda's senior leadership. And the Sunday Times of London has reported that President Bush enlisted the British special forces in a bid to capture Osama bin Laden before the November presidential election.
In the memo, the Iraqi sheiks offer to send diplomatic and military delegations to Afghanistan to identify potential rebellion leaders and share strategies for fomenting an anti-Qaeda rebellion.
"It is suggested for this project to be successful to send a delegations of 3-5 Sahwat Al-Iraq military and political leaders to explain and clarify the essential requirements to implement and succeed in the experiment," the memo says. "Explain how to prepare and plan the fight just like Sahwat Al-Iraq did and achieved against Al-Qaeda."
The sheiks must be aware, however, of the strict form of Islam practiced by many Afghans. "It is important not to infuriate influential public leaders, particularly the community religious leaders, mosque's preachers, mosque's imams, school and university faculty members, and Islamic leaders in the tribal areas," the memo says.
One of the key strategies of the Anbar Awakening model was to identify imams and mosques that did not favor Salafism, the form of Islam that Al Qaeda imposed. Along those lines, the memo recommends directing the Afghan government to make a show of its enforcement of anti-pornography laws in the short term. But in the long term, the sheiks counsel the Americans to build Pashtun universities and new local schools. "This would create an educated and professional class due to their new situation of professional careers, not due to their tribes or religious persuasions," the memo says.
The memo is signed by Sheik Ahmad al-Rishawi, who told the Sun last week that he was willing to send military advisers to Afghanistan. But it was prepared by the Anbar Awakening's General Intelligence and Diplomatic Offices, with input from a "Research Committee for the Afghanis and Muslims of Central Asian Countries," which includes former Baathist diplomats to Afghanistan.
The new tribal organizations in Afghanistan should establish committees to identify reconstruction needs and communicate them to the government in Kabul, the memo says. In keeping with current Iraq policy, it cautions against alienating any potential allies in the struggle against Al Qaeda, as they could switch sides. The Awakening has expanded in part by bringing into its ranks former terrorists who plotted attacks on Americans.
Whether the military or State Department will take the Iraqi sheiks up on their offer and teach them Urdu and transport them to Afghanistan remains to be seen. Some analysts in Washington, however, are encouraged.
"The command in Afghanistan understands the benefit that took place in Anbar," a retired four-star general and one of the architects of the current surge strategy in Iraq, Jack Keane, said. "The commanders from Iraq have been cross-talking with the commanders in Afghanistan. I think this approach has some real merit, to have someone from the tribal side who is directly involved in the process to go to Afghanistan."
One of General Keane's collaborators on the Iraq surge, Frederick Kagan, said the sheiks' offer was important from an ideological perspective. "The bottom line is we know that nothing upsets Al Qaeda more than the Anbar Awakening," Mr. Kagan, a senior scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said. "Nothing freaks them out more that a Sunni Arab community that welcomed them and has rejected them and aligned with the Americans."
But Mr. Kagan said the tribal structures of Iraq, where the senior Qaeda leadership was foreign, are far different than those of Afghanistan, where the Taliban is largely indigenous in the Pashtun region. "I don't think the Taliban insurgency is remotely as dangerous or acute as it was in Anbar," he said. "I don't want to play it down; it is a serious insurgency. But the scale of the problem in every sense in Afghanistan is smaller."
A senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, Brian Katulis, said when he visited Pakistan recently, many in the security establishment and the government were wary of exporting the Anbar model to the Pakistani frontier provinces. "The Pakistanis don't look at Iraq as the model of what they want for their country," he said. "When they hear Iraq, they think disaster, they think American occupation, they think of a situation that has not been good for the Iraqi people."