GEN Petraeus: . . . And the Afghan Local Police Programme in itself is another very important element in the way ahead. I think we’re up to nearly 60 sites identified, 17 of those already actually validated, officially in operation, and then the others are in various stages of Ministry of Interior approval. And there’s quite a rigorous process, these are not militias, as some journalists have characterised them. They’re not Arbakai [a form of tribal policing system or militia]. The members of these organisations are nominated by shuras [a council of elders] that have to be representative of the areas in which the ALP will be operating. They are vetted by the NDS [Afghanistan’s intelligence service], they have biometric data collected by MOI [Ministry of the Interior] and ISAF forces, they’re armed by the MOI, with distinct limits to what they’re allowed to do. They work for the district chief of police, not a local warlord or elder or power-broker.
The idea is that these actually mobilise not just individuals, but communities. They’re typically several different villages in a district that will provide these Afghan Local Police members. This is now the community defending itself against the Taliban, which in some cases they have actually thrown off themselves. As in, day, Gizab — in southern Daikundi [a province in southern Afghanistan].
So again that’s a very important element of the overall approach as well. there will be a slight increase in additional capability on the NATO-ISAF side as additional trainers and actually some additional combat battalions come in as part of constant force adjustments. But the real increase over the year that lies ahead will be in the Afghan security forces. We saw an increase of 70,000 this past year.
FT [Matthew Green]: Do you have a target for the end of this year?
GEN Petraeus: We have a target for the end of October and it is 304,500 total Afghan National Security Forces.
FT: But not including the Afghan Local Police?
GEN Petraeus: That’s a different structure, and that’s a relatively small structure, but frankly that’s an element that punches above its weight class. It’s literally only 3,100 or 3,200 right now for the 17 validated sites. Again, as I said, nearly 60 sites total have been identified, but by no means begun. There’s a very rigorous process that goes through, they have to be authorised by the ministry of the interior, that’s the first step. Then they have to start the process, there’s a visit during that process, there’s a final validation that takes place before they’re actually allowed to bear arms.
It’s almost the personification of counter-insurgency — because as we say in the field manual about counter-insurgency being 70 per cent political and 30 per cent military, that’s ALP. It really is quite substantially political community mobilisation. Elders support it. The elders also police it to a degree. If an ALP member gets out of line, the complainsts will be made to the elders who nominated these individuals and vouched fo rthem, and that’s a serious commitment on th epart of an elder. So the elders will actually then sit down with th eleaders and say “this is unacceptable, youve got to clean up your act.”
FT: Do you have a target for where you want to be by the end of the year in terms of how many you’ve got [Afghan Local Police]?
GEN Petraeus: No, it is difficult to say, because it depends on the pace of validation. President Karzai was very clear — this is his directive that guides this. He lays down very clear tasks that have to be performed before these sites are validated, and will only go as fast as the individual sites can go. This programme is so important that I actually attached a US Army conventional infantry battalion to the Special Forces command that supports this programme around the country. That has enable the Special Forces Green Beret teams — typically 12 man teams — in some cases to split in half, with the support of say an infantry squad or platoon, that thickens them. We may have to augment that further to enable this over the course of the year, and if so I’m prepared to do that.