The U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan has pinned its hopes on a new local-militia program to help shore up street-level security ahead of the coalition’s planned 2014 departure after more than a decade of war.
Now the Taliban has belatedly recognized the importance of the so-called “Afghan Local Police.” Last week, the insurgent group targeted two ALP commanders, one of them a prominent former Taliban member who had left the group in order to join the coalition and command a local police unit.
The local police initiative, which aims to raise several thousand volunteers to defend key towns against Taliban attack, has suffered other setbacks. In January, a combined U.S. Army and Afghan Army force deployed into Marzak, a remote town in Paktika Province, along the border with Pakistan, with the goal of recruiting 100 local police.
But only half that number showed up for training. To boost the number of recruits, the American and Afghan soldiers resorted to threats and intimidation, telling local elders that they, the elders, would be forced to join the police unit unless more young men volunteered. “I feel like the Taliban,” said Sgt. 1st Class Scott Herring, leading the U.S. force.
Not all local police are thoroughly vetted. A member of the ALP unit in Marzak was kicked out of the unit after using his position in the unit to exact revenge on his rivals in town. And in late March, an ALP recruit reportedly shot and killed an ISAF soldier.
On April 5, as many as 100 Taliban fighters stormed an ALP outpost in western Afghanistan, killing commander Ahmad Shah and seven of his policemen. Shah and his men had defected from the Taliban earlier this year.
The same day, a bomb killed another ALP commander in eastern Afghanistan, according to The Wall Street Journal. “We know the fighting season is picking up and this is probably just the beginning of that,” U.S. Army spokesman Lt. Col. David Olson said.