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Enlisting Allah

Marines in Helmand province, Afghanistan, are teaching locals to read the Koran to thwart the efforts of the Taliban, writes Brian Mockenhaupt. The Taliban had managed to convince the locals that the Afghan soldiers from the northern and eastern parts of the country, who spoke Dari instead of Pashto, were as foreign as the US marines present there. So Lieutenant Commander Nathan Solomon, a Navy chaplain, and his Afghan liaison, Abdul Khabir, a mullah and an army captain, installed loudspeakers at the bases announcing the call to prayer five times a day. The result was almost immediate. Locals told the marines, "We didn't know they pray like we do" and the joint patrol of marines and Afghan soldiers earned the locals' trust. Clearly, counterinsurgency operations can take on unexpected forms.

'Zero tolerance': Don't listen to that siren song

Where does the border between justice and retribution lie, asks a leader in The Independent. Downing Street is in favour of cutting benefits and housing provisions of those involved in the disturbances in London. The manner in which the whole business is being conducted should "prompt unease", says the leader. Then, there is the case of a borough council serving an eviction notice on a tenant whose son was found rioting. Is it ethical, even if legal, for a council to punish the mother for the actions of her adult son? Also, is this action practical for the same council which will have another homeless family to house? Not even US "zero tolerance" policing goes that far. Even if politicians are lured by this American fad, the police are right to be wary. "There are vast cultural and social differences between there and here, not least the fact that the US police are armed," says the leader.

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