US finds some abuses by Afghan village police

AP News
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Posted: Dec 15, 2011 12:22 PM
US finds some abuses by Afghan village police

American-trained Afghan village police forces have committed some human rights abuses, a U.S. military investigation has found, adding recommendations on how to eliminate them.

An executive summary, to be released Thursday, also found the program was effective in providing security in areas where the Afghan army and police could not. It called for closer cooperation with human rights and non-governmental groups so the Afghan government can act more quickly when allegations of abuse are reported.

An advance copy of the summary was made available to The Associated Press.

The investigation was ordered by the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, after the New York-based Human Rights Watch issued a report last September that alleged that some units of the Afghan Local Police, or ALP, were committing human rights abuses _ including rape and murder.

The new inquiry was carried out without involvement of the Afghan government. The full 109-page report, drafted by U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. James Marrs, will be made public later.

"The conclusion is that we found the ALP to be an effective and successful organization, but not one without flaws," said a U.S. forces official on condition of anonymity because the full report has not been released.

U.S. special operations forces have been training the village-level fighting forces in hopes of countering the Taliban insurgency _ a concept similar to the one that turned the tide of the Iraq war. The ALP is trained by the U.S. but commanded and run by the Afghan government and police.

The ALP initiative has stirred worries it will legitimize existing private militias or create new ones. Warlord-led militias ravaged Afghanistan in the 1990s, opening the way for the Taliban takeover.

The U.S. inquiry took issue with some of the Human Rights Watch findings.

In its 102-page report, Human Rights Watch alleged serious abuses, including killings, rape and detentions without cause. It called on the Afghan and U.S. governments to "take immediate steps to create properly trained and vetted security forces that are held accountable for their actions."

The new investigation looked into a total of 46 allegations and "assertions" made in the Human Rights Watch Report. It was carried out over a 37-day period by six investigative teams made up of 21 people who visited 45 areas of Afghanistan. The executive summary said it interviewed 219 people at all levels.

"We took the allegations very seriously, investigated comprehensively and recommended changes whenever our finding found it appropriate," the U.S. forces official said.

It found seven of the allegations to be credible, including a case where Afghan police had killed an ALP commander who was trying to release two boys who had been kidnapped by police for ransom. It found 10 not credible, 14 that could not be determined, and 15 that were "credible in part."

Among the recommendations were increased human rights training for ALP's, codifying procedures to discipline its members and a stronger oversight and reporting mechanism.

"HRW's focus in its report is on allegations of misconduct. This investigation first and foremost demonstrates the command's seriousness in responding to widespread allegations such as these," the summary said. It added however, that HRW "ignores the vital service" the ALP are "providing every day to give Afghans a chance to end 30 years of conflict and live peaceful lives."

There are about 9,000 members of the ALP in 57 districts around Afghanistan, and the Afghan government has agreed to have about 30,000 of the ALP forces trained by the end of 2013. They will be located across 99 districts around the country at a cost of about $170 million a year.

The forces are not meant to replace the Afghan army or police, but complement them in some areas.

The new study also found that that there was no evidence that U.S. forces under the Special Operations Command, which trains the Afghan Local Police, were involved in "complicity in alleged misconduct" in any of the cases it investigated.