WASHINGTON (American Forces Press Service, Jan. 9, 2007) - The continued support of the U.S. and international community to building a strong Afghan army and police force is essential as that country moves forward with social and economic progress, the U.S. general in charge of training Afghan forces said today.
"Our ultimate goal here is to assist the nation by building Afghan capacity and capability to secure Afghanistan's territory and provide an Afghan shield for the nation's continued development," said Maj. Gen. Robert Durbin, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. Durban spoke in a news conference via satellite from Afghanistan.
"This transition process will take time, but with steadfast U.S. and international support, it will happen," he said.
The Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police continue to make progress and demonstrate self-reliance in planning, preparing and executing security operations, Durbin said. The Afghan National Army is 36,000 strong and on its way to an end-strength of 70,000, he said. The police force is at 50,000 and will grow to 82,000. The country will reach those manpower goals by the end of 2008, he said.
As the Afghan National Army conducts successful operations each day, its soldiers gain confidence and competence, Durbin said. Improved living conditions in the field and in garrison, combined with pay reform and leadership improvements, have resulted in more recruits entering the security forces and lower rates of unauthorized absences, he said.
Under a reform program led by the U.S. and Germany, the Afghan National Police have made great progress, Abdul Hadir Khalid, first deputy minister for security, said at the news conference. The police have had a history of corruption, Khalid acknowledged, but the Interior Ministry has launched several initiatives to eradicate that corruption.
Pay reform has made police salaries more appropriate to the dangerous work they do, and ensures the officers receive every dollar they earn, Khalid said. The newly established internal affairs department enables citizens to report wrongdoing and holds police accountable for their actions, he added. Also, the newly drafted code of conduct reinforces the professional, legal and moral requirements found in the Afghan national constitution, penal code and police regulations.
To further prevent corruption, police recruits are thoroughly screened for past criminal activity and involvement with insurgent organizations, Khalid said.
"There are still many challenges ahead, but they are not insurmountable," Khalid said, speaking through a translator. "The brave and honorable men and women of the Afghan National Police are dedicated to the interior security of Afghanistan and ensuring a future of peace and prosperity."
The Afghan government is dedicated to building a police force representative of all ethnicities and regions, Khalid said. The government is also working to ensure the uniformed police, border police, civil border police and auxiliary police are properly balanced and manned, he said.
The success of police reform in Afghanistan would not have been possible without U.S. support, Khalid said. The U.S. has provided equipment, training and other resources for the qualified men and women Afghanistan is providing, he noted.
Durbin also lauded the partnership between the U.S. and Afghan governments in developing security forces. "We are prevailing against the effects of a prolonged war, tribalism, poverty, illiteracy and the lack of infrastructure," he said. "We're producing an Afghan national security force that is competent and capable of defeating a determined insurgency, while setting the stage for social and economic progress."