With echoes of the Anbar Awakening in Iraq, the US is arming, training, and paying Afghans to set up village militias.
Frustration and fear is sparking opposition to plans that would nearly double the size of US forces there.
Some 3,000 US troops recently deployed to insurgent-heavy provinces near Kabul.
Insecurity and charges of fraud could hamper election officials' ability to ensure popular acceptance of next year's presidential poll results.
In provinces just south of Kabul, the insurgents have a shadow government that polices roads and runs courts.