- Associated Press - Sunday, September 2, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The U.S. military has halted the training of Afghan-government-backed militias for at least a month to give the Americans time to redo the vetting of new recruits after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies, officials said Sunday.

There have been 34 insider attacks this year — at least 12 in August alone — that have killed 45 international troops, putting intense strain on the relationship between coalition forces and the Afghans they live and work with. The shootings also have thrown doubts onto one of the pillars of the U.S.-led coalition’s planned withdrawal by the end of 2014 — training Afghan forces so they can take the lead for security in the country.

Lt. Col. Todd Harrell, a spokesman for U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said the Americans have halted training for at least a month of about 1,000 trainees of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a government-backed militia that is under the authority of the national police but operates independently. He said the Americans are redoing background checks on the Afghans.

“The training of the ALP recruits has been paused while we go through this revetting process to take a look at this process to see if there’s anything that we can improve,” Col. Harrell said. “It may take a month. It may take two months. We don’t know.”

International forces have been revetting Afghan forces across the board, but U.S. special operations forces decided to stop training the ones they were responsible for — the 16,000-strong ALP — while redoing the background checks.

AfghanLocal Police forces that already have been trained will continue to operate, and the government will continue to recruit new members, Col. Harrell said.

Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, also said there was no set date for the training of the local police to resume.

The pause in training for the government-backed militias was first reported by The Washington Post.

Col. Harrell said the Americans last month also put a two-week pause on operations by the Afghan special forces last month to revet those soldiers for any potential ties to insurgents. He did not say whether any suspicious links were uncovered.

The international forces in Afghanistan have been revisiting both security for their forces and re-examining the backgrounds of the Afghan forces in the wake of the recent attacks on international troops.

The Post also reported that training of special operations forces had been halted, but a spokesman for the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, or NTM-A, which oversees this training, said there has been no such pause.

“There has been no halt in training with NTM-A assets as they relate to special forces,” said Maj. Steve Neta of the Canadian Forces. He also said no other training programs involving the traditional military or police have been halted for revetting.

The head of the Afghan special operations forces said there has been no pause to the training of his forces. The program to train Afghan special operations forces had already been on break for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and had been scheduled to restart in mid-September.

“It will continue. It is not ended at all. After the 15th of September, we restart,” Brig. Gen. Sayed Karim said.

The United States and its allies have been training the Afghan army and police so that they gradually can take over security for the country by the end 2014. The international force hopes to have about 350,000 Afghans trained and ready by the end of the year, and it gradually has been putting them in the lead for security in parts of Afghanistan since last year. The U.S.-run ALP project is much smaller and currently has about 16,000 members around the country.

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