- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 29, 2012

A small, little-noticed counterinsurgency force that was created in the ninth year of the Afghanistan War is proving to be the key for U.S. troops to leave the country in victory.

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) is becoming so effective that Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi privately protested to U.S. commanders that too few of these units were being formed in the north, his power base, a defense official told The Washington Times.

The U.S. military now is shifting gears and establishing more units there.

The relatively tiny force is part of a Village Stability Operations program designed to defeat the rural insurgency that is the Taliban. But a little more than a year after it was created, the ALP is leading commanders to think it is the answer to the long-vexing problem of holding a village after NATO troops clear it of the enemy.

“I think it’s going to continue to be an important mechanism for holding the ground in Afghanistan,” Marine Corps Gen. John Allen, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week.

Afghan Local Police officers are chosen, based on their loyalty, by village elders who are opposed to the Taliban. The members are geared for defense and trained by U.S. special-operations forces. Each local force is dedicated to one village. (Associated Press)
Afghan Local Police officers are chosen, based on their loyalty, by village ... more >

The Afghan Local Police is unlike the Afghan National Police, which uses volunteers from various regions to patrol and protect areas far from home. The local force is dedicated to one village and is made up of men chosen by anti-Taliban village elders for their loyalty.

Trained by U.S. special-operations forces, such as Army Green Berets, local police are geared for defense, not offense.

“The Taliban are very threatened by the ALP because the significant terrain, the key terrain in the counterinsurgency, is the human terrain,” Gen. Allen said. “And the Afghan Local Police deny the human terrain to the Taliban.”

North-south divide

Mr. Mohammadi, who is in charge of Afghanistan’s internal security, said the U.S. has set up too many local police units in the Pashtun-dominated south and east, at the expense of northern provinces where his brethren reside, a defense official said.

An ethnic Tajik, Mr. Mohammadi was a leader in the Northern Alliance, which partnered with the U.S. invading force in October 2001 to oust Taliban rule in Kabul.

“The interior minister wanted to stop us from [forming ALP units in] any more villages until he gets a couple of village sites up in the north, which of course from our perspective we don’t need them because the north is relatively secure,” the defense official told The Times.

“The Tajiks fear the arming of the Pashtuns in the south and what is going to happen with all those weapons and armed policemen when we leave in 2014.”

A Pentagon map of ALP units shows the vast majority in the south and east, with fewer planned for the north.

Army Lt. Col. Jimmie Cummings, a spokesman in Kabul, told The Times: “At the request of the Afghan Ministry of Interior, we are accelerating our efforts to help establish additional ALP sites in the north. This decision has not halted ALP validations or training in other parts of the country. In fact, we processed more than 600 new ALP candidates into ALP programs in the east and southeast over the past week.”

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