- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2012

KABUL, Afghanistan — Less than 25 percent of Afghans say their national police are strong enough to handle security without international forces’ help, but three-quarters think they will be ready by the 2014 NATO handover, according to a U.N. survey released Tuesday.

Support for the NATO military force staying in the country also appeared widespread more than 10 years into the U.S.-led campaign.

Sixty-eight percent of those surveyed said foreign troops should stay for the time being, compared to about a quarter who said they should leave immediately.

Strengthening the Afghan army and police to fend off the Taliban insurgency is key to NATO’s plans to turn over security responsibility by the end of 2014.

The U.S.-led coalition is sponsoring efforts to expand the national police from about 100,000 two years ago to 157,000 by October. Training that many police so fast has faced problems, including illiteracy among recruits and complaints of corruption and abuse.

According to the annual Police Perception Survey, about 21 percent of those polled said Afghan police were ready to handle security and crime-fighting on their own now, with a further 54 percent saying they would be strong enough within two or three years - roughly coinciding with the NATO handover deadline.

The rest said police wouldn’t be ready even in three years or gave no opinion.

Three-quarters of respondents said the Afghan National Police are “at least somewhat effective” at fighting insurgents, up 5 points from the previous year.

The independent research firm that did the survey conducted in-person interviews with 7,278 Afghans in October in all 34 of Afghanistan’s provinces, although some randomly chosen districts were inaccessible because of the threat from Taliban insurgents. It quoted a margin of error of 1.6 percentage points.

NATO and Afghan officials welcomed the results of the poll, sponsored by the U.N. Development Program and the Afghan Interior Ministry, saying it shows progress is being made.

“The training of Afghan police in the last 12 months has significantly improved,” said Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi, adding that it “has produced positive and tangible results.”

Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a NATO spokesman in Kabul, also said the survey shows trends moving in the right direction.

“It definitely shows there are fields where Afghan security forces continue to need improvement, but … looking at the continuation of progress over the last years is really encouraging,” he said.

Fifty-three percent of Afghans polled in the U.N. survey said the national police are somewhat or very corrupt, down from 60 percent in the same survey last year.

Nationwide, about 74 percent of those polled expressed personal confidence in the national police in their area.



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