Karzai Approves Plan to Keep Taliban Out of Villages (Updated)

Karzai Approves Plan to Keep Taliban Out of Villages

By Jim Garamone

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 14, 2010 -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a program that will set up local police forces in towns and villages where the Taliban are attempting to infiltrate and intimidate the population.

The local police forces will bridge the gap until fully trained government forces can step in, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said at a news conference today.

"While we are simultaneously operating at a far higher tempo and degrading the Taliban so they are less of a threat to these local communities, we can utilize a willing, local, armed population to do community policing," Morrell said.

The local police forces are not militias, Morrell explained. Karzai approved a plan to put up to 10,000 community police in place, to be paid by the government and to operate under the control of the Afghanistan's interior ministry.

"This is about putting locals to work, so that they can be on watch in their communities for people who shouldn't be there, and then work with the established security organizations -- the [Afghan] army, the police, the coalition -- to make sure they don't menace their communities," Morrell said.

Though the preferred solution in the country is a fully trained police force, a Defense Department official speaking on background said, "the recent discussion and decision is an encouraging sign of Afghan officials taking serious, detailed interest in both their short-term security needs and the long-term sustainability of security programs."

Officials said examples of Afghan villagers banding together to deny the Taliban access to their towns have been encouraging.

"We clearly have seen examples of local communities repelling attempts by the Taliban to infiltrate and intimidate their communities," Morrell said. "We have also, though, seen examples where there are communities that may not have stepped up in that demonstrable a way, but clearly want to and are looking for help in doing so."

Since June 1, the Taliban have killed 89 percent of the civilians killed in Afghanistan. Morrell pointed out that if the coalition and Afghan government forces kill civilians, it is inadvertent. "By contrast, we know that the Taliban [are] deliberately targeting civilians," he said. "And they are doing so at an increasingly high rate."

Related Sites:

Transcript - U.S. Department of Defense

Tribal Engagement Workshop - Small Wars Journal

More:

Pentagon Defends Afghan Local Police Plan - Voice of America

President Karzai Approves Plan for Local Defense Forces - Washington Post

Afghans to Form Local Forces to Fight Taliban - New York Times

Afghan Gov't Says OK to Local Defense Forces - Associated Press

Local Afghan Security Forces 'Temporary Solution' - Agence France-Presse

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A word of caution here. This is starting to sound very much like what we [the British] did in Malaya when we annexed villages, moved the indigenous Malays into 'safe areas' and then topped it off by enforcing a curfew. Granted it worked in the main but AFG is a very different operational environment. With the advances in technology since Malaya the removal of the insurgent's freedom of movement in villages has much less impact.

In Malaya the rationale was to remove the logistical support for the insurgent via the food stores in the villages etc. Given that the insurgent gets his support through lines of communication that spread back into Pakistan this rationale is weak to say the least.

We can only assume then that the rationale behind this approach in AFG is to reduce the popular support for the insurgent? This I agree with wholeheartedly and if (and it's a big if) it works then more power to it. However, and sorry to sound so negative, but the ANP are known to be corrupt and less than effective so what is going to change by producing a 'local' police-esque force to defend villages against infiltration by the insurgent?

I hope this puts some fire in the belly and creates discussion as this article, more than others recently, has somehow hit a chord with me!!

A word of caution here. This is starting to sound very much like what we [the British] did in Malaya when we annexed villages, moved the indigenous Malays into 'safe areas' and then topped it off by enforcing a curfew. Granted it worked in the main but AFG is a very different operational environment. With the advances in technology since Malaya the removal of the insurgent's freedom of movement in villages has much less impact.

In Malaya the rationale was to remove the logistical support for the insurgent via the food stores in the villages etc. Given that the insurgent gets his support through lines of communication that spread back into Pakistan this rationale is weak to say the least.

We can only assume then that the rationale behind this approach in AFG is to reduce the popular support for the insurgent? This I agree with wholeheartedly and if (and it's a big if) it works then more power to it. However, and sorry to sound so negative, but the ANP are known to be corrupt and less than effective so what is going to change by producing a 'local' police-esque force to defend villages against infiltration by the insurgent?

I hope this puts some fire in the belly and creates discussion as this article, more than others recently, has somehow hit a chord with me!!

I am also skeptical of this program being run out of the Interior Ministry. That would not really make it the sort of bottom up approach that is needed.

Security is a vital need for these villages, we don't need to pay them in order for them to do what it takes to protect themselves, they will do that on their own. At the most we provide them with confidence via training and a few weapons and ammo. But even that has to be limited or they will come to depend on it.

The idea is for them to become as self sufficient as possible, not just in security but in livelihood, education, etc. We need to start looking at projects undertaken by NGOs in other places, where villages are empowered to fend for themselves instead of becoming dependent on foreign aid.

The role for the central gov't and us to a certain extent, is to be the tie breaker, the power broker, to resolve disputes between different groups in a peaceful manner.

As much as we are paying lip service to "bottom-up" approaches, we are still thinking of creating things like a national police force and a strong central government. That is simply not appropriate or reasonable given how the country is structured today, it might be in 30 years, but not today.

Did this reporter actually read the transcript before writing his summary? The AP3 program was "approved" by Karzai? Definitely not:

"This is by no means, by no means, a done deal. This is a suggestion, an idea, an initiative put forth by General Petraeus that is under consideration, under discussion between him and President Karzai and others who are -- who are involved in this. And I dont have any update for you on where its going."

As far as I know, the decree authorizing and funding the implementation of AP3 hasn't been signed. And after reading through the entire transcript, not only has it not been signed, the program, at the strategic level, still has not apparently been well-thought out. I thought "hope" was the throw-away COA, but the AP3 program requires a lot of hope in the long-term that it won't backfire miserably.

I'm not suggesting we sit back and let the program suffer from paralysis by analysis at Eggers, but trying to take a program with questionable-at-best results to date and blanket the country with it.....and then put it under MoI management....is a stretch of feasibility. There are some pretty glaring foundational, fundamental, and strategic questions which get to outcomes/ends, motivations, usage, coordination, and management that aren't being answered while we automatically assume this is the local, bottom-up answer to all of Afghanistan's security ills.

It definitely seems like a decent short-term expedient but there are too many unknowns still present while we plow ahead with it. Come to think of it, that sounds like OEF strategy from day 1 anyway so this nests quite neatly inside that I suppose. ;o)