London, Nov 26 : In a bid to encourage the tribesmen in Helmand province to take on the Taliban, the UK is learnt to be planning to pay tribal elders "monthly cash bribes".
The move is in the line with the "Awakening Councils" in Iraq which helped unite Sunni tribesmen against Al Qaeda insurgents in Iraq. Similarly, tribal militias in Pakistan had also begun to mobilise against the Taliban and its Qaeda backers.
A spokesman for the British embassy in Kabul, said: "It would establish community councils in Helmand and build trust between communities and government".
Ahead of finalizing the scheme, British officials in Kabul are financing an Afghan initiative to pay community leaders monthly wages to get them talking to the government. The new strategy comes in the wake of "growing violence" across Afghanistan and a steady trickle of British casualties in Helmand. Afghan officials have accused Britain of "losing the support of the people".
It is seen as the first step towards winning back influential tribal elders, on a district level, who might one day command irregular forces against the Taliban insurgents, reported The Independent.
According to the paper, the tribal elders will be handpicked by Helmand's Governor Gulab Mangal, and they are expected to earn about 800 pounds a year for attending up to two meetings, or shuras, a month. But, critics fear the payments, which are about 30 per cent more than civil servants earn, are President Karzai's way of bribing tribal elders to deliver votes ahead of elections next year.
A senior Western policy analyst in Kabul said: "It's anti-democratic. If this is perceived as more political patronage, or bribery, it runs the risk of generating friction and resentment."
US officials are financing a similar initiative in the east, where their troops are based. It comes ahead of a major strategy review by General Petraeus, which is expected to advocate closer engagement with Afghanistan's myriad tribal communities when Barack Obama takes office next year.
Obama said before the election that the "Awakening" scheme should be explored in Afghanistan following the success of the Sunni Awakening in Iraq which "changed the dynamic fundamentally".