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Karzai approves village defense forces

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a U.S.-backed plan to create local defense forces across the country in an attempt to generate new grassroots opposition to the Taliban, U.S. and Afghan officials said Wednesday.

The plan Karzai approved calls for the creation of as many as 10,000 "community police" who would be controlled and paid by the Interior Ministry, according to a senior Afghan government official.

U.S. military officials said the community police program would be modeled upon a set of local defense units, called the Afghan Public Protection Police, created over the past year in Wardak province by U.S. Special Forces. That effort has achieved mixed results, according to several military sources, but it has been regarded as the most palatable of the various local security initiatives pushed by the U.S. military because its members wear uniforms and report to the Interior Ministry.

"It's a community watch on steroids," said a U.S. military official in Kabul. "The goal is to create an environment that will be inhospitable to lawlessness, to reduce the number of places where insurgents can operate."

The official said members will carry weapons and will be authorized to guard their communities. They will be trained by the Special Forces but they will not be instructed in offensive actions, the official said.

Although U.S. military officials have pushed to expand local security initiatives, the concept had been opposed by Karzai and some of his security ministers because of concerns that assembling armed bands of villagers could lead to militias. In the 1990s, after Soviet forces withdrew from Afghanistan, the country was wracked by fighting among rival militias.

As a consequence, the top U.S. and NATO commander, Gen. David H. Petraeus, and his predecessor, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, sought to assuage Karzai that community police forces would have a clear connection to his government, a stipulation sought by the president and his ministers.

"We'll be following a well-known concept," said the senior Afghan government official. "This is not a militia -- no way."

The Afghan official said the new force would be different from the public-protection police experiment in Wardak -- "We agreed on the community police, not the Afghan Protection Police," he said -- but the U.S. military official said the programs are the same.

"It's essentially a name change," the U.S. official said.

Winning Karzai's approval for the local defense program had been a top initial goal for Petraeus, who took command of coalition forces this month. But an early meeting with Karzai turned tense over the issue as the president renewed his objections to the U.S. plan. Petraeus and his aides then worked quickly to address Karzai's concerns and urged him to reconsider, officials said.

The public-protection police pilot program has operated for about a year in two districts of Wardak province. Sources familiar with the program said it has helped to reduce insurgent activity in some areas but participation has split along ethnic lines. Tajiks and Hazaras have signed up but Pashtuns have been slow to join. Most insurgents are Pashtuns.

The Wardak experiment was also judged by military officials to be very labor intensive, requiring multiple Special Forces teams to train and mentor the local defense units. Some officials had questioned whether such a program could be easily and quickly replicated.

But the U.S. official who talked about the new effort on Wednesday said the expansion would be aided by additional resources from the United States, NATO and the Afghan government. "We've got a new commitment behind it."

Aside from the public-protection units in Wardak, there are more than a dozen village-level defense squads that have been formed by the Special Forces in parts of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The official said those squads, which do not always have a clear connection to the Kabul government, will eventually be integrated into the community police program. It was unclear whether those units would then undergo changes. U.S. military officials had wanted to significantly increase the number of villages in the program, modeled on a similar initiative with Sunnis in Iraq, but the Karzai government had opposed it.

Still, the village-level squads had been deemed by some military commanders to be more effective than those in Wardak because residents regard them as community-generated -- and are more willing to support them -- as opposed to having been created by the national government, which many Afghans view with suspicion.

The U.S. official said members of the new program will be considered for jobs in the Afghan national police and army once their services are no longer needed.

Partlow reported from Kabul.

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Joshua Partlow  | July 14, 2010; 1:04 PM ET
 
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Comments

Yes, A community program on steroids... read US dollars.

Let's go with it so long as they commit to cut the income flow from poppy growing.

If they pledge their own resources to pay for it to a great degree.

No go it alone financially. Those people have to be weaned from the ole USA teat.

Lloyd Winburn

Posted by: lloyd2 | July 14, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

The U.S. official said members of the new program will be considered for jobs in the Afghan national police and army once their services are no longer needed.
++++++++++

I'm a bit doubtful this will ever happen. If only we had started with this approach from the get go.

Posted by: moebius22 | July 14, 2010 1:28 PM | Report abuse

Something smells about this plan, Like back scratch city.

Posted by: mriley0223 | July 14, 2010 1:31 PM | Report abuse

This is part of the answer to get this Country to some sort of state of stability. If the locals will fight off the Taliban, we should support them. And as far as the money goes, as a father with a son forwardly deployed, I'd rather see "dollars" flow to Afghanistan than U.S. "blood".

Posted by: ArmyDad1 | July 14, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

With out U.S. tax payer dollars this will never work because Afghanistan does not have the GDP to support a police force or an army.

The U.S. should deploy Special Ops to well known centuries old drug smuggling routes and stop the flow of heroin.
Burn their trucks, kill their camels and kill the smugglers.
Drug lords might try to fight back but they would be up against the full might of the U.S. military. Any part-time smugglers trying to make a quick buck will quickly realize it would be easier to return to farming.

Posted by: knjincvc | July 14, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Isnt it time to retire the whole "on steroids" catch phrases? Lame.

Posted by: motogp46 | July 14, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

By golly, this just might work! When our combat force withdrawal begins next year, our Special Forces will be able to remain to keep the fire lit under these "community forces." A credible solution, perhaps.

Posted by: dozas | July 14, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

knjincvc: "The U.S. should deploy Special Ops to well known centuries old drug smuggling routes and stop the flow of heroin."

Yes. Suicide bombers, genital mutilation, and honor rape are all traced back to drug cartels - not religious fundamentalism. Get a grip and pick a 'war' - drugs, gays, pornography, abortion, or terror.

Heroin funds terrorism - so does oil, banking, and charities.
We need to turn the job of policing Afghanistan over to the Afghan people and get our soldiers home.

Posted by: smartypants13 | July 14, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Hmmm...roving hordes of mercenaries enforcing vigilante justice with impunity....Isn't this pretty much exactly what the Taliban did? So we overthrew the Taliban and replaced them with Taliban light?

Posted by: pswift00 | July 14, 2010 3:45 PM | Report abuse

Hummmm - Community Police will be paid for by the Interior Ministry - - don't you mean paid for by the taxpayers of America! When will this end? That money would be better spent here helping Americans. Plenty of them need help.

Posted by: nem44 | July 14, 2010 4:30 PM | Report abuse

Community police?

Hey, why not ask Barry Soetoro, that famous community organizer! He’s not doing anything these days, except golfing and shooting hoops and he’s a klutz in sport.

Oh yeah, I forgot, Barry was actually a "community disorganizer," who trashed neighborhoods and made them worse ghettos.

Maybe Acorn, the Black Panthers, and Radical Muslims could help out, but then again, they're almost as bad as their buddy Barry.

These socialists wouldn't turn the United States into one huge slum, would they?

Maybe we should forget Afghanistan and focus on saving our nation from these Democrats.


Posted by: Jerzy | July 14, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

If anyone has been actively following the day-to-day news on the war in Afghanistan as some of us have: you would know that there have been about 3-4 instances lately of villages standing up to the Taliban ON THEIR OWN, without US Special Ops involvement. Wouldn't it be helpful to "assist this effort"??? This wasn't a discussion about drug trafficing or Obama-bashing, it's about thoughtful resolution to the predicament we are involved in. My son is in a mud hut COP in an area known as "Taliban Alley". I'd much rather see the US dollars that are paid to him and his buddies, be paid to the villagers to stand on their own. Come on people.

Posted by: ArmyDad1 | July 14, 2010 5:02 PM | Report abuse

Afghanistan is fractured by culture, religion, daunting geography and language...perhaps the only way to insure some sustained "peace" is a return to the "warlord" mentality.

The initiative to "win..or buy the hearts and minds" has been a complete failure. The progress void in Afghanistan by the war of choice in Iraq has left most locals in Afghanistan feeling deeply dismayed the rotating well intention personnel who promise, but often cannot perform. Our best intentions went beyond our ability.

That said, if the locals, the ANA or the ANP cannot bring some peace and offer resistance to the Taliban ideology, then perhaps.

The time in Afghanistan is reaching almost three (3) World War II's (Dec/1941 to Aug/1945)..Afghanistan...November of 2001 to current date...

Paktia-Khost Provinces/2003

Posted by: LTC11A | July 14, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

From what my kid in Afghanistan says, it should be "community watch on hash".

Posted by: oracle2world | July 14, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Hello


Obama should never have broadcast that he wants to leave Afghanistan


Obama may have thought it was good to please his left wing.


However, it is stupid military policy - and this policy reflects how lacking in compentence Obama is.

Posted by: Laserheat | July 14, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

What should he have said? "We're staying for 100 years"? Cheney tried that one already and it didn't wash. We're staying till the sun goes red giant? Nope, don't think so. Time for them to police their own country. 'Bye!

Posted by: laboo | July 14, 2010 7:00 PM | Report abuse

Great!

Now let's leave.

This very week.

LOAD EM UP AND MOVE EM OUT!

Posted by: WillSeattle | July 14, 2010 7:03 PM | Report abuse

"'It's a community watch on steroids,’ said a U.S. military official in Kabul.”

No, it’s a U.S. military reliance on idiotic cliches.

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