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Petraeus to reinvigorate Afghan paramilitary force

Gen. David H. Petraeus is pressing his subordinates to address endemic problems with Afghanistan's paramilitary police force, which has been plagued by high attrition and uneven performance, according to senior military officials.

The force, known as the Afghan Civil Order Police, is designed to move into areas previously controlled by the Taliban to prevent insurgents from returning until a local police force can be rebuilt. The problem: the paramilitary police have been so heavily used over the last year that they are falling apart.

Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, who was under intense pressure to show progress in Afghanistan by this fall, relied heavily on these forces to move into places like Marja following the larger Marine assault into that city. The police were slated to play a major role in stabilizing Kandahar province this summer.

Among the first questions Petraeus asked upon taking over was what U.S. commanders were doing to reinvigorate the depleted civil order police. McChrystal recently tapped elite U.S. Special Forces troops to begin embedding with the civil order police to improve their performance in the field. Those plans won't change.

But Petraeus appears also to want to use the paramilitary police a bit less. The shift would be a small victory for Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, who heads the U.S. effort to train and equip Afghan forces, and has pressed to give the paramilitary police a bit of a break

By Greg Jaffe  | July 12, 2010; 12:45 PM ET
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