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AFGHANISTAN: Gov't bid to boost police in south

KANDAHAR , 4 March 2007 (IRIN) - Abdul Bari has just quit his job. Recruited into the auxiliary police in Kandahar, part of a temporary supplementary force to meet Afghanistan’s shortfall of security forces in the south, the 23-year-old said the job was simply too difficult and dangerous.

Despite the resurgence of pro-Taliban forces in the area, there has been little commensurate increase in security forces. Funding and support for the Afghan national police and the army are being stepped up only now, while an increase in the deployment of international forces has been incremental.

The Afghan national army has experienced high rates of desertion and it has only half the force of 70,000 it was expected to reach by 2010.

As a result, police in the volatile south have no choice but to take on anti-insurgency duties, which prompted the government to set up an auxiliary force.

According to Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary, the auxiliary police will comprise an additional force of 20,000 for two years for the six southern provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar, Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Ghazni.

We needed a temporary increase because we did not have enough police in the remote districts of the south,” Bashary said.

However, critics say the force could create yet another source of long-term instability in the country as re-arming of local communities has proved counter-productive in the past.

The auxiliary police are drawn from the community and deployed in their own towns and villages, as living with their families in their own areas is supposed to prevent them from deserting.

In Helmand, more than 700 of the 1,050 mandated auxiliary police have been trained and deployed, while in Kandahar the original force of 1,300-plus is likely to be increased to 2,000.

There are questions, however, over the integrity of the training these men receive as it is a fraction of what regular police are given, allowing for quicker deployment, but sceptics remain concerned over its quality.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) says that after just 10 days of training the auxiliary police were given the same weapons and salary as the regular police.

“Weak vetting and questions over command structures raise concerns that the new force will be little more than militias,” the ICG said.

Bashary says the auxiliary police are only mandated to carry out law-enforcement duties and not combat, although they must defend themselves if attacked.

But for most policemen serving in the south, carrying out their duties involves confronting and usually engaging anti-government elements.

For this reason Bari did not believe community policing was an advantage. “I quit because I was commissioned to serve in my own area where everyone in the community knew I was a policeman. I am a resident of Panjwayi district - control of which changes hands between the government and insurgents - so it is difficult and dangerous for me to serve in such an area,” he said.

Moreover, for a salary of just US$70 a month, Abdul’s family thought the risks were not worth it.

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Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
IRIN is a project of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.



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