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The Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice is un­like the Afghan Na­tional Po­lice, which uses vol­un­teers from var­i­ous re­gions to pa­trol and pro­tect ar­eas far from home. The lo­cal force is ded­i­cated to one vil­lage and is made up of men cho­sen by anti-tal­iban vil­lage el­ders for their loy­alty.

Trained by U.S. spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces, such as Army Green Berets, lo­cal po­lice are geared for de­fense, not of­fense.

“The Tal­iban are very threat­ened by the ALP be­cause the sig­nif­i­cant ter­rain, the key ter­rain in the coun­terin­sur­gency, is the hu­man ter­rain,” Gen. Allen said. “And the Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice deny the hu­man ter­rain to the Tal­iban.”

North-south di­vide

Mr. Mo­ham­madi, who is in charge of Afghanistan’s in­ter­nal se­cu­rity, said the U.S. has set up too many lo­cal po­lice units in the Pash­tun-dom­i­nated south and east, at the ex­pense of north­ern prov­inces where his brethren re­side, a de­fense of­fi­cial said.

An eth­nic Ta­jik, Mr. Mo­ham­madi was a leader in the North­ern Al­liance, which part­nered with the U.S. in­vad­ing force in Oc­to­ber 2001 to oust Tal­iban rule in Kabul.

“The in­te­rior min­is­ter wanted to stop us from [form­ing ALP units in] any more vil­lages un­til he gets a cou­ple of vil­lage sites up in the north, which of course from our per­spec­tive we don’t need them be­cause the north is rel­a­tively se­cure,” the de­fense of­fi­cial told The Times.

“The Ta­jiks fear the arm­ing of the Pash­tuns in the south and what is go­ing to hap­pen with all those weapons and armed po­lice­men when we leave in 2014.”

A Pen­tagon map of ALP units shows the vast ma­jor­ity in the south and east, with fewer planned for the north.

Army Lt. Col. Jim­mie Cummings, a spokesman in Kabul, told The Times: “At the re­quest of the Afghan Min­istry of In­te­rior, we are ac­cel­er­at­ing our ef­forts to help es­tab­lish ad­di­tional ALP sites in the north. This de­ci­sion has not halted ALP val­i­da­tions or train­ing in other parts of the coun­try. In fact, we pro­cessed more than 600 new ALP can­di­dates into ALP pro­grams in the east and south­east over the past week.”

Mr. Mo­ham­madi’s con­cern is the lat­est rift be­tween the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai and the U.s.-led NATO com­mand.

‘Arm the lo­cals’

Mr. Karzai has de­manded an end to night­time raids by U.S. spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces. In the wake of the slaugh­ter of 17 civil­ians this month, he also has called for NATO troops to leave all vil­lages.

The Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice force now stands at 12,000 of­fi­cers, shy of the 30,000 planned.

“You arm the lo­cals, give them some train­ing and make them re­spon­si­ble for se­cu­rity,” the de­fense of­fi­cial said. “There are now thou­sands of Afghan po­lice­men in the vil­lages who were not there a year ago. It’s be­come the Amer­i­can exit strat­egy.”

The most re­cent Pen­tagon progress re­port on Afghanistan, filed in Oc­to­ber, sin­gled out the lo­cal po­lice as a suc­cess story.

“The ALP pro­gram con­tin­ues to in­crease in strength and ef­fec­tive­ness, and the ALP have proven to be a sig­nif­i­cant threat to the in­sur­gency in key ar­eas through­out Afghanistan,” the re­port said.

“In re­sponse to this, in­sur­gents have en­gaged in in­tim­i­da­tion cam­paigns and tar­geted as­sas­si­na­tions against ALP mem­bers and their fam­i­lies. Th­ese at­tacks have largely failed to in­tim­i­date ALP forces and lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, which con­tinue to de­fend their vil­lages ef­fec­tively against in­sur­gent at­tacks.”

Gen. Allen said the ALP is get­ting un­der the Tal­iban’s skin. The NATO com­mand has in­ter­cepted Tal­iban chat­ter among fight­ers: “If you can kill an ALP com­man­der, it’s worth 10 coali­tion sol­diers.”

At some point, the Afghans will have to de­cide whether to re­tain the lo­cal po­lice, ex­pand it or fold the of­fi­cers into the na­tional force.

If there is a light at the end of the tun­nel, the lo­cal po­lice are hold­ing it.

“I take heart in the suc­cess of the Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice as po­ten­tially a model and an in­di­ca­tor of how this will un­fold,” Gen. Allen said.


Afghan Lo­cal Po­lice of­fi­cers are cho­sen, based on their loy­alty, by vil­lage el­ders who are op­posed to the Tal­iban. The mem­bers are geared for de­fense and trained by U.S. spe­cial-op­er­a­tions forces. Each lo­cal force is ded­i­cated to one vil­lage.

Afghan vil­lagers can rest eas­ier with the ALP serv­ing as a bul­wark against the Tal­iban.

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