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American Forces Press Service

New Afghan Program Supports Community-based Approach to Security

American Forces Press Service

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 27, 2009 – More than 240 Wardak province residents became the first to graduate from the new Afghan Public Protection Force program designed to enhance security throughout Afghanistan.

After a rigorous, three-week training program, the graduates proudly accepted their certificates of completion yesterday in front of an audience that included high-level officials from the Afghan government, Wardak province elders, Army Gen. David D. McKiernan, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force and U.S. Forces Afghanistan, and other distinguished guests.

The Afghan Public Protection Force is an Afghan-led program that is designed to provide enhanced security to designated districts in key provinces, bringing greater stability and strengthened community development, training advisors said.

The ceremony, held at Camp Mether Lam, an Afghan National Police facility in eastern Afghanistan, officially welcomed the men to their new life of community service.

“This is purely an Afghan initiative to develop a bottom-up approach, a community-based approach, to improve security, and to give a voice to the provincial government,” McKiernan said. “We are very optimistic in our support of this program.”

The recruiting process began with nominations by community leaders in Wardak province. Those selected had to meet specific requirements for the duty. Participants must be an Afghan civilian between the ages of 25 and 45, be physically fit, drug-free, without a criminal record, and live in or be from the district in which they are selected to work. Leaders also take into consideration whether or not the participant is trustworthy and respected by the community.

Protection force members will work closely with Afghan National Army, Police and coalition forces to protect their local community. They will maintain security on approaches to highways within their district, protect key government facilities and personnel, disrupt militant attacks and deny insurgent safe havens. Additionally, the force will provide crisis response to natural disasters and facilitate economic development in their district.

Wardak greatly needs the added protection, Abuzer Beheshti, a graduate of the program, said. The 19-year-old said he’s ready to go back and make a difference.

“I want to help my own people,” he explained. “There are a lot of Taliban in Wardak, and they take our young boys and make them join up. We have to make the situation better. We need schools for our children and hospitals; and I want to do what I can.”

McKiernan offered encouragement to the graduating class, noting that the new force can rely on the support of the country’s security assets.

“I applaud the courage of these men to step forward in representing the community; but they know that if they run into problems, they can call the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army or international forces that are out there. So they’re not on their own.”

U.S. Forces Afghanistan provides logistical funding, complementary community projects, and mentors for the course trainers. Ultimate responsibility for the force rests with the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, McKiernan said.

(From a U.S. Forces Afghanistan news release.)

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