By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
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."