Karzai ap­proves plan for lo­cal de­fense forces

Austin American-Statesman - - THURSDAYBRIEFING - By Alissa J. Ru­bin

KABUL, Afghanistan — Af­ter in­ten­sive ne­go­ti­a­tions with NATO mil­i­tary com­man­ders, the Afghan govern­ment Wed­nes­day ap­proved a pro­gram to es­tab­lish lo­cal de­fense forces that U.S. mil­i­tary of­fi­cials hope will help re­mote ar­eas of the coun­try thwart attacks by Tal­iban in­sur­gents.

De­tails of the plan are sketchy, but Amer­i­cans had been pro­mot­ing the force as a cru­cial stop­gap to com­bat ris­ing vi­o­lence and frus­tra­tion with the slow pace of train­ing per­ma­nent pro­fes­sional se­cu­rity forces — the key con­di­tion for the U.S. mil­i­tary to be­gin pulling back from an in­creas­ingly un­pop­u­lar war. Many parts of Afghanistan have no sol­diers or po- lice on the ground.

Over 12 days of talks, Gen. David Pe­traeus, the new NATO com­man­der, over­came the ob­jec­tions of Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai, who had wor­ried that the forces could har­den into mili­tias that his weak govern­ment couldn’t con­trol. In the end, the two sides agreed that the forces would be un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Afghan In­te­rior Min­istry, which will also be their pay­mas­ter.

“They would not be mili­tias,” Pen­tagon spokesman Geoff Mor­rell said at a brief­ing Wed­nes­day in Washington. “These would be govern­ment-formed, gov­ern­ment­paid, govern­ment-uni­formed lo­cal po­lice units who would keep any eye out for bad guys — in their neigh­bor­hoods, in their com­mu­ni­ties — and who would, in turn, work with the Afghan po­lice forces and the Afghan army to keep them out of their towns.”

It is, he added, “a tem­po­rary so­lu­tion to a very real, near-term prob­lem.”

The pro­gram bor­rows from the largely suc­cess­ful Sunni mili­tia groups that Pe­traeus cre­ated in Iraq, al­though the two pro­grams wouldn’t be iden­ti­cal. Un­like the Iraqi units, the Afghan forces would not be com­posed of in­sur­gents who had switched sides. They would be sim­i­lar as a lightly armed, trained and, sig­nif­i­cantly, paid force in a nation starv­ing for jobs.

Al­though some U.S. of­fi­cials said the forces could have as many as 10,000 peo­ple en­rolled in them, Afghan of­fi­cials in­di­cated that they wanted to keep them smaller.

Allauddin Khan as­so­Ci­aTeD Press

An Afghan po­lice of­fi­cer stands guard Wed­nes­day at a po­lice base that had come un­der at­tack Tues­day night in Kan­da­har. That as­sault killed 3 Amer­i­can troops along with 3 Afghan po­lice of­fi­cers and 5 Afghan civil­ians.

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