September 5, 2012 Karen Parrish / American Forces Press Service – defpro.com
WASHINGTON | U.S. special operations forces have paused training for 1,000 new Afghan local police recruits, but partnered operations between coalition forces and established members of the local police remain ongoing, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here yesterday.
Little said the training pause will allow an “intensive re-vetting process” for all 16,000 members of local police units across Afghanistan. Insider attacks against coalition forces have risen sharply in recent months, and the press secretary noted the Taliban see local police forces as both a threat and an opportunity.
Little told reporters that during a weekly briefing earlier today between Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, the general “reported … that insurgents are alarmed by the ALP, whose legitimacy and local intelligence networks make it exceedingly difficult for the insurgency to maintain or establish a foothold in local communities.”
The added strength local police units bring to small villages, Little said, is one reason why the Taliban would like to exploit the local police. “And it is why, in part, it is so important that the vetting process be sound for all members of the ALP,” he added.
ISAF officials have described the local police program as a way to augment the national police force at the village level. Local police members have authority only within their own villages, officials have said.
“While the ALP is not part of the [Afghan national security forces], we believe they are critical to helping provide for security for the Afghan people,” Little told reporters.
The press secretary emphasized that training continues unabated for Afghanistan’s army and national police forces.
“The goal remains to train and field 352,000 [Afghan national security forces] by October, and we remain on track to reach that milestone,” he said.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force is working with the Afghan government to thwart insider threats and to develop a joint protection plan, Little added. Everyone involved takes the issue of insider threats very seriously, he said, noting ISAF issued a tactical directive in March requiring specific and tailored force protection measures.
“Personnel at increased risk from an insider attack were required to undertake specific close-quarter combat and active shooter training,” Little said. “All commands … are required to conduct refresher training. This is particularly for mentors and others who routinely work side by side with Afghans.”
The directive also required additional in-theater cultural awareness training, and instructed coalition force units to create safe zones inside Afghan security force compounds where they can defend themselves if necessary, the press secretary continued. More recently, he added, there's been a great deal of focus on small-unit leadership in counterintelligence matters, “that will help identify potential attackers early on.”
Little acknowledged the risk of insider threats will never diminish to zero.
“This is something that we have to … constantly be on the lookout for. This is a war zone. … But what we can try to do is put as much effort into identifying potential attackers as early on as possible, to try to stop insider attacks,” he said.