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US reliance on Afghan paramilitaries in rural areas worries European allies

Posted by The Agonist on January 8th, 2012

From our partners at The Agonist

Julian Borger | Jan 8

The GuardianBritain wonders if local police force can keep stability, while Germans argue the units are not easy to control

A split between the US and its European allies has emerged over the role of rural Afghan paramilitary units, seen by American commanders as critical to the military exit strategy.

A year after the Afghan local police (ALP) was launched, the US military has announced a plan to triple its numbers from a current strength of 9,800 to 30,000 by the end of 2013, with further expansion beyond that. According to the US strategy, the lightly-armed groups of men hired to protect their villages are expected to help contain a Taliban resurgence as the US and its Nato allies withdraw combat troops over the next three years.

General John Allen, the American commander of the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) sees the ALP as the key to success in Helmand, from where some 14,000 US marines are departing in the next few months, leaving a 9,000-strong British garrison and some Georgian and Danish troops to manage until Afghan regular soldiers and police can be deployed.

British officials, however, have voiced anxiety over the strategy, particularly over the capabilities of the ALP, described by Allen’s predecessor, General David Petraeus, as “a community watch with AK-47s”. In northern Afghanistan, German officers have warned their American counterparts the local forces could run out of control once their US mentors and paymasters leave.

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