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Afghan Security Forces Make Impressive Professional Gains

22 January 2007

Afghan, U.S. officials say steadfast international support is key to success

Washington – Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reviewing the training of the Afghan national army, recently said not only is he very impressed, but the army’s progress exceeds U.S. expectations.

Gates and Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in Kabul for a three-day visit in mid-January on the secretary’s first trip to Afghanistan.  Although gains have been made, he said during a January 17 press conference in Washington that Afghan and U.S. officials still are hoping to accelerate the process in training and equipping the army.  (See related article.)

There are now 36,000 soldiers in the Afghan army that has been assembled since the U.S.-led mission to oust the Taliban from Afghanistan five years ago.  The goal is nearly to double the size of the force so that the army can defend its territory, deal with insurgents and establish conditions that will allow the nation to succeed economically without relying on resources derived from the narcotics trade.

The mission to create the army and to reform Afghanistan’s police force is a collaborative project involving members of the international community including the United States and Pakistan as well as from NATO.  The alliance’s International Security Assistance Force is essential to the strategic security partnership in Afghanistan and the effort to stem anti-government challenges from the Taliban and associated al-Qaida insurgents.

The United States and Germany have been at the forefront of reforming the police which now number around 50,000 trained officers.  During a recent visit to Washington, Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Abdul Hadir Khalid said the national police, which fall under his command, have made tremendous progress in recent years, but there are still challenges to surmount especially in ongoing efforts to eradicate corruption in the ranks.

He said the establishment of an Internal Affairs Department has created a mechanism “to hold police accountable for their actions.”  A new police code of conduct also is helping reinforce the professional, legal and ethical requirements of police regulations as well as Afghanistan’s Constitution and penal code.

Better initial screening of police recruits also has helped weed out common criminals and those connected to insurgents, Khalid said during a January 9 press conference at the Pentagon.  “The police are being rebuilt, growing and improving every day,” he said, as the trainers push toward a goal of having 82,000 trained police that represent the nation ethnically and regionally.


Army and police training include emphasis on the rule of law and respect for human rights.  The Afghan government hopes to meet its training and recruitment goals by 2008.  (See related article.)

The United States is funding purchases for the Afghan security forces that will help meet requirements for rifles and artillery as well as airplanes and helicopters.  A considerable amount of equipment was bought in November 2006 and will be flowing into the country through the spring so that the Afghan forces can become increasingly independent.

Khalid also cited stepped up plans to eradicate opium production and associated smuggling in 2008.  A special force of 2,600 counternarcotics police is at the forefront of this effort, he said.

Army Major General Robert Durbin, who reviewed Afghan progress January 9, told reporters at the Pentagon press conference that reform is being achieved against the backdrop of illiteracy, tribalism and without infrastructure.  “[W]e’re producing an Afghan national security force that is competent and capable of defeating a determined insurgency,” he said, “while setting the stage for social and economic progress.”

Afghan security forces already are fighting alongside their international partners and in some cases leading combat operations.  This serves to instill confidence and a sense of professionalism among the Afghan forces, Durbin said.

The U.S. goal, he said, is to “assist the nation by building Afghan capacity and capability to secure Afghanistan’s territory and provide an Afghan shield for the nation’s continued development.”  While this transition, after decades of strife, will take time, he said with “steadfast U.S. and international support – it will happen.”

For more information, see Rebuilding Afghanistan.

(USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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