Afghan cash-for-weapons program leads to tips

AP News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2010 9:19 AM

It's not exactly Cash for Clunkers _ more like Cash for Cache.

A U.S. Defense Department program under which Afghans can tip off foreign forces about hidden mines or weapons and get money in return has paid out nearly $200,000 in its first three months, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Friday.

Since Oct. 1, about 150 Afghans have cashed in on the incentives, which range from $50 to $10,000 for information that leads to weapons caches or "the disruption of enemy activities," ISAF said.

Recent tips from "Operation Jaeza," or reward, have led to the discovery of 43 rockets, 40 recoilless rifle rounds, 40 mortars, five anti-tank missiles, several anti-tank and anti-personnel mines, and anti-aircraft weapons, it said.

The program assures people who provide tips their anonymity.

"This program helps international forces protect innocent civilians who might become victims of terrorism," said the program's spokeswoman, Navy Capt. Jane Campbell. "It also provides citizens a channel to fight back against violent attacks without placing themselves or their families in danger."

"This is a program we fully support," said Zarguna Hammeed, a representative of the Women of Paktia rights group.

"People who discover information about improvised explosive devices should stop and report it," she said in the statement. "The money offered helps families as they help protect others by reporting the IEDs."

IEDs are the weapon of choice for insurgents in the war-ravaged country.

The number of known IEDs placed by insurgents in Afghanistan has nearly tripled since 2007, as has the number of coalition forces killed and wounded by the blasts, according to figures kept by international forces.

Similar cash-for-weapons programs have been instituted by the U.S-backed government in Iraq, including one started in 2004 under which Shiite militia members got paid for turning in weapons.

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki ordered the government to give an Iraqi citizen a reward of $85,000 last week for a tip-off that a Syrian was about to set off a car bomb in western Baghdad.

He has offered a the same reward for anyone who gives similar information.

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Associated Press Writer Katharine Houreld in Baghdad contributed to this report.