Monday, September 12, 2011

U.S.-backed Afghan police force accused of human rights abuses


A disturbing report into human rights abuses by the U.S. backed Afghan police force - including rape and murder - has raised serious questions about the exit plan of the West.

Human Rights Watch published a report on Monday which found that in three of seven provinces it visited and conducted interviews there was evidence of arbitrary detentions also, AFP reports.

The 102-page report found that armed groups supported by NATO and the Afghan government are terrorizing and robbing communities, Reuters reports.

Murder, torture, illegal taxes, theft and the gang rape of a teenage boy are among the abuses by government-backed militias, and the NATO-funded Afghan local police, documented in the 102-page report, "Just Don't Call It a Militia", Reuters reports.

The 7,000-member Afghan Local Police was set up last year and put up by the U.S. as central to a successful handover by the deadline of the end of 2014.

But the report by HRW has raised concerns about handing full control over to the Afghan forces by then.

AFP reports:

The force arms residents protecting their communities in areas where the Afghan army and regular police have only limited reach.

They do not have law enforcement powers.

HRW found evidence of ALP abuses including killings, rapes and arbitrary detentions in three provinces -- Baghlan, Herat and Uruzgan -- out of seven where it conducted interviews.

It said such cases raised "serious concerns" about ALP vetting, recruitment and oversight and urged improvements including the establishment of a complaints body to deal with problems.

"Pressure to reduce international troop levels should not be at the expense of the rights of Afghans," said HRW's Asia director Brad Adams."Poor governance, corruption, human rights abuses and impunity for government-affiliated forces all are drivers of the insurgency and these issues need to be addressed if true stability is to come to Afghanistan."

General David Petraeus, former commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, in March called the ALP "arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself", AFP reports.
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-Colonel Jimmie Cummings, said that it would work with the Afghan government to probe the report's claims.

"The ALP program is a critical component to bringing governance and security to the Afghan people at the local level," he said.

"Where relevant, we will endeavor to improve this program and work diligently to correct these observations."

A previous report, released in May by Oxfam, also highlighted grave human rights abuses including child sex abuse.

Afghanistan's security forces number over 300,000 and the United States has spent billions of dollars ahead of the planned withdrawal of all foreign troops by the end of 2014.

The report comes as two Afghan civilians were killed and nearly 80 NATO soldiers were wounded after a truck of explosives drove into a military base in eastern Afghanistan, military officials said Sunday, the Washington Post reports.

The Taliban took responsibility for the attack, which occurred on the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

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