Local Police Effort Shows Innovation, Petraeus Says

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)

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