WASHINGTON, March 15, 2011 — The Afghan Local Police program is one example of the innovative policies helping with the counterinsurgency campaign in Afghanistan, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee today.
The commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force called the initiative “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself.”
The program is, in essence, a community watch, with local residents armed with assault rifles providing security under the control of their district police chief, Petraeus explained. The local community council nominates the men, and they are vetted by the Afghan intelligence service. Afghan police and U.S. Special Forces soldiers train and mentor the units.
“The initiative does more than just allow the arming of local forces and the conduct of limited defensive missions,” the general said. “Through the way each unit is established, this program mobilizes communities in self-defense against those who would undermine security in their areas. For that reason, the growth of these elements is of particular concern to the Taliban, whose ability to intimidate the population is limited considerably by it.”
Some 70 districts are identified for Afghan Local Police elements, with each district’s authorization averaging some 300 members. So far, 27 district local police elements have been validated for full operations, while the other 43 are in various stages of being established, the general said.
“This program has emerged as so important that I have put a conventional U.S. infantry battalion under the operational control of our Special Operations Command in Afghanistan to augment our Special Forces and increase our ability to support the program’s expansion,” Petraeus said. The conventional battalion is from 1st Infantry Division out of Fort Riley, Kan.
While there has been significant progress in training security forces in Afghanistan over the past year, the quality can be uneven, Petraeus told the senators. “The train-and-equip mission is, in fact, a huge undertaking, and there is nothing easy about it,” he said. “However, the past year alone has seen Afghan forces grow by over one-third, adding some 70,000 soldiers and police.”
The forces have grown not only in number, but also in capability, Petraeus said.
“Investments in leader development, literacy, marksmanship and institutions have yielded significant dividends,” he said. “In fact, in the hard fighting west of Kandahar in late 2010, Afghan forces comprised some 60 percent of the overall force, and they fought with skill and courage.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)