The Guardian (UK) has noticed the Army's love of reflector belts.
So clandestine are the units formed to protect villages in a critical valley in southern Afghanistan that US officials and special forces commanders in Kabul refuse to discuss them.
But the Guardian has learned that in one important regard, the Local Defence Initiative forces are not so secretive after all. As they patrol villages close to the key southern city of Kandahar, the fighters are being forced to wear bright yellow reflector belts so that their special forces mentors do not mistake them for Taliban.
The garish sashes were introduced to distinguish the non-uniformed militias from an enemy who favour the same get-up of traditional Afghan garb and AK-47 slung over the shoulder.
The Geneva Conventions do require that a lawful militia have "a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance," so why not yellow reflector belts? They worked for the Sons of Iraq (until they came up with their own preference, the bunny keychain).
Think of it as an acid test for the reliability of your local allies. Nothing but ironclad loyalty will induce you to wear a reflective yellow sash in a combat zone filled with snipers and Taliban hoping for a good mark for their mortars. (One might argue, however, that you're wise to run the risks posed by Taliban mortars, if it offers solid protection against being mistaken for the enemy by US fires. Given the choice, which one would you prefer to dare?)
Wings Over Iraq explores the issue much further in this photo essay.