The US military has halted the training of some members of the Afghan Local Police force for at least a month following a string of attacks on international forces by men in Afghan National Security Force uniforms.
Sunday’s announcement would affect about 1,000 new recruits to the ALP, a US-sponsored police force recruited to fight the Taliban and other armed groups in remote areas of the countryside in the Central Asian nation.
“The training of the ALP [Afghan Local Police] recruits has been paused while we go through this re-vetting process, to take a look at this process to see if there’s anything that we can improve,” Lieutenant Colonel John Harrell, a spokesman for US special operations forces in Afghanistan, said. “It may take a month, it may take two months, we don’t know.”
There have been 34 friendly fire attacks this year – at least 15 in August alone – that have killed 45 international troops.
The increase in insider attacks comes ahead of an October 2012 deadline to bring the ANSF to a 352,000-strong force and as Afghan forces have taken security responsibility for nearly 75 per cent of the country’s populated areas.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has promised to hand over full responsibility for the country’s security to Afghans by the end of 2014.
US and Afghan leaders fear the rise in attacks indicates that the Taliban has infiltrated the ranks of the military and police, while other analysts say deep grievances against the presence of foreign forces could be motivating police and others to attack their erstwhile allies.
Afghan Local Police forces that have already been trained will continue to operate, and the government will continue to recruit new members, Harrell said.
Colonel Tom Collins, a spokesman for ISAF, also said there was no set date for the training of the local police to resume.
“It will continue. It is not ended at all. After the 15th of September we restart,” Brigadier General Sayed Karim said.
At 16,000-strong, the Afghan Local Police have been accused of corruption and violence towards civilians.
The most recent insider attack took place last week when an Afghan army soldier turned his gun on Australian soldiers in southern Uruzgan province, killing three.
Nabi Misdaq, a veteran Afghan journalist, told Al Jazeera that the local police had mostly been drawn from the militias of influential warlords, and that the recruitment policy needed to be revised for both the police and the army.
“They have recruited the militias who have served their own warlords. Now when the Karzai government came, those warlords became ministers, they became ambassadors. They are still governors … so they shoved all those militias into the army,” he said.
“A lot of these people who are in the local police or the so-called national army, they know that the NATO and US forces will not be there forever. So they’ve got to make arrangements with the armed opposition … [because] they have to face them one day [when the foreign forces leave].
“I don’t think the recruitment was done on the right footing. The best thing for them to do now is … to trim this force of 350,000 to around 100,000 … at the moment there are lots of undesirable elements within the army and the police.”
Over the weekend, NATO and the office of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, presented two separate accounts of an operation carried out by Afghan and Australian troops to catch fighters responsible for a shooting in Uruzgan province.
In the attack, an Afghan soldier opened fire on Australian soldiers, killing three and wounding two, according to the Australian military. He later fled.
In a statement issued late Saturday, Karzai’s office condemned an operation by international troops to go after the shooter, describing it as unilateral and saying it resulted in the deaths of a 70-year-old man and his 30-year-old son.
Karzai’s office said the operation took place without the coordination or approval of provincial authorities and violated an agreement that calls on Afghan troops to lead night raids.
NATO responded by saying that Afghan officials approved and supported the strike.
Prior to the two most recent attacks, coalition authorities said they believed that 25 per cent of this year’s attacks had confirmed or suspected links to the Taliban, which sometimes has infiltrated the ranks of the Afghan army and police and in other cases is believed to have coerced or otherwise persuaded legitimate members of the Afghan forces to turn on their coalition partners.