JFP News 10/23: vanden Heuvel promotes noescalation.org
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October 23, 2009
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1) President Obama will soon make what could be the defining decision of his presidency - whether to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, writes Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Nation. Security in the US and the region depend not on this misguided "surge," but on commonsense counterterrorist and homeland security measures, vanden Heuvel writes. She urges Nation readers to press Members of Congress to oppose escalation via the website http://NoEscalation.org.
2) Seymour Hersh says the US Army is "in a war against the White House - and they feel they have [President] Obama boxed in" on the request for 40,000 more troops, the Durham Herald Sun reports. The only way for the U.S. to extricate itself from the Afghanistan conflict, Hersh said, is to negotiate with the Taliban.
3) The November 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear program makes it clear that Iran did not begin construction on the Qom enrichment facility until long after its public change of policy on informing the IAEA about the construction of new facilities, contrary to claims by Administration officials, writes Gareth Porter for Inter Press Service. A chronology of 2007 indicates that the Iranian decision to withdraw from the earlier agreement with the IAEA on notification was prompted by the campaign of threats to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities mounted by the Bush administration in early 2007.
4) Some regional specialists say the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban share an ideology and a dominant Pashtun ethnicity, but have different goals and the common name may be more misleading than illuminating, the New York Times reports. In an interview this week, an Afghan Taliban commander expressed sympathy for the Pakistani Taliban, but said, "There will not be any support from us." He said the Afghan Taliban "don't have any interest in fighting against other countries." "Our aim was, and is, to get the occupation forces out and not to get into a fight with a Muslim army," the commander added.
5) The Netherlands and Denmark said they will not send more troops to Afghanistan unless its presidential runoff creates a legitimate government and until President Obama decides on a new strategy, AP reports. "I think whoever is going to send more troops to Afghanistan will put up some conditions," said Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade. "They need to see the new Afghan president and say: 'If we send more troops to your country, you have to deal with this, this and this.'"
6) Most analysts expect significantly fewer people to vote in Afghanistan's runoff election than in August, when turnout was about 38 percent, the New York Times reports.
7) Honduran President Zelaya pulled out of talks with the country's post-coup de facto leaders, Reuters reports. Zelaya said the coup leaders' refusal to reinstate him will strip a November 29 presidential election of legitimacy and further isolate the caretaker government.
8) By a large 22-point margin (60 to 38 percent), the Honduran public disapproves of the removal on June 28 of Zelaya as president, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research reports. Two-thirds approve of Zelaya's performance as president. By a 2-1 margin (57 to 28 percent), Hondurans have a negative personal opinion of coup leader Micheletti. 55 percent of respondents said the Honduran Constitution should be amended to allow for the re-election of presidents.
9) Iran said Friday that it would respond next week to an international offer to supply fuel for a nuclear research reactor, the Washington Post reports. Iran's ambassador to the IAEA indicated that the main sticking point was "guarantees for the certain execution of this deal." Soltanieh rejected the notion that Iran was missing a "deadline" by replying next week.
10) Israeli defense minister Barak said Thursday that Iran must cease all uranium enrichment, the New York Times reports, interpreting the remarks as a signal of concern over the deal the US is negotiating with Iran, which does not require Iran to end enrichment.
11) US efforts to expand Afghanistan's security forces are faltering, the Times of London reports. Western officials concede that Afghan police recruits are paid ($120/month) half what it takes to support a family; Taliban recruits are paid $300/month. A critical report by the EU says police recruits serve as serve as "light infantry in counterinsurgency operations."
Katrina vanden Heuvel, The Nation, 10/23/2009 @ 09:36am
President Obama will soon make what could be the defining decision of his presidency. The course he chooses in Afghanistan will tell us a lot about the kind of country we will become during his administration.
We have already been fighting in Afghanistan for twice as long as we fought in World War II. In fact, the United States and its NATO partners have had more than 40,000 troops in Afghanistan since 2006 and have spent more than $300 billion on military and civilian operations. At this perilous moment, as we attempt to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the last thing we need is a "surge" of 40,000 more troops to fight on behalf of a corrupt and unpopular Afghan government.
Security in the United States and the region depend not on this misguided surge, but on commonsense counterterrorist and homeland security measures: extensive intelligence cooperation, expert police work, border control, and the surgical use of special forces to disrupt imminent attack when needed.
What is hopeful is that the majority of Americans have turned against the war.
The Nation's special issue on Afghanistan - Obama's Fateful Choice - published this week, takes on the rationale for escalation, challenges the White House to explore a broader range of options, and offers alternatives, including an exit strategy. The issue also offers ways to get involved to oppose this misguided and dangerous policy.
One new effort was launched today by five national peace advocacy groups representing hundreds of thousands of Americans - a project called NoEscalation.org. The website tracks whether Members of Congress have taken a stand against troop escalation, and lists their phone numbers so constituents can call and ask their legislators to oppose it.
The website is created by CodePink, Just Foreign Policy, Peace Action, United for Peace and Justice, and Voters for Peace. The groups are urging Americans to report back to NoEscalation.org about their conversations with Congressional offices.
"We're at a major fork in the road," said Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy. "One road leads to years of quagmire and needless death and trauma for American soldiers and Afghan civilians. The other road leads to national reconciliation in Afghanistan, regional diplomacy, an exit strategy, and a timetable for military withdrawal."
President Obama promised to renew and reconstruct our nation. At a time when we are struggling to recover from a debilitating economic crisis, how can he justify the cost that sending yet more troops to Afghanistan would entail?
Make sure your voice is heard as President Obama makes this fateful choice.
2) Sy Hersh: Military 'In War Against The White House'
Neil Offen, Herald Sun, (Durham, NC) 10.14.09 - 12:23 am
Durham - The U.S. military is not just fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, America's most renowned investigative journalist says.
The army is also "in a war against the White House - and they feel they have [President] Obama boxed in," Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Seymour Hersh told several hundred people in Duke University's Page Auditorium on Tuesday night. "They think he's weak and the wrong color. Yes, there's racism in the Pentagon. We may not like to think that, but it's true and we all know it."
In a speech on Obama's foreign policy, Hersh, who uncovered the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and torture at Abu Ghraib prison during the Iraqi war, said many military leaders want Obama to fail.
"A lot of people in the Pentagon would like to see him get into trouble," he said. By leaking information that the commanding officer in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, says the war would be lost without an additional 40,000 American troops, top brass have put Obama in a no-win situation, Hersh contended. "If he gives them the extra troops they're asking for, he loses politically," Hersh said. "And if he doesn't give them the troops, he also loses politically."
The journalist criticized the president for "letting the military do that," and suggested the only way out was for Obama to stand up to them. "He's either going to let the Pentagon run him or he has to run the Pentagon," Hersh said. If he doesn't, "this stuff is going to be the ruin of his presidency."
The only way for the U.S. to extricate itself from the conflict, Hersh said, is to negotiate with the Taliban. "It's the only way out," he said. "I know that there's a lot of discussion in the White House about this now. But Obama is going to have to take charge, and there's no evidence he's going to do that."
3) NIE Reveals Qom Facility Followed 2007 Bush Threats
Gareth Porter, Inter Press Service, Oct 23
Washington - The Barack Obama administration claims that construction of a second Iranian uranium enrichment facility at Qom began before Tehran's decision to withdraw from a previous agreement to inform the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in advance of such construction. But the November 2007 U.S. intelligence estimate on Iran's nuclear programme tells a different story.
The Iranian decision to withdraw from the earlier agreement with the IAEA was prompted, moreover, by the campaign of threats to Iran's nuclear facilities mounted by the George W. Bush administration in early 2007, as a reconstruction of the sequence of events shows.
A senior administration official who briefed reporters Sep. 25 said, "We know construction of the facility began even before the Iranians unilaterally said they did not feel bound by that [IAEA] obligation."
The U.S. intelligence assessment of the period, however, makes it clear that Iran did not begin construction on the Qom enrichment facility until long after its public change of policy on informing the IAEA.
The published key judgments of the November 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iran's nuclear programme contained a little-noticed statement that the intelligence community judged that Iran's "covert" uranium conversion and enrichment activity had "probably been halted in response to the fall 2003 halt", and "probably had not been restarted through at least mid-2007".
That clearly implied that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence of any undeclared covert enrichment facility.
An intelligence source familiar with the text of the full unpublished NIE has confirmed to IPS that the estimate does not refer to any evidence of a second enrichment site, even though it discussed the central importance of covert enrichment in any Iranian nuclear breakout scenario.
The estimate made no mention of such evidence despite the highly publicised fact that that the Qom site was one of many which were under constant surveillance by U.S. intelligence because of the tunneling system already dug into the side of the mountain.
Despite the claim that construction on the Qom facility began before April 2007, the senior administration official conceded in the Sep. 25 briefing that it was only in early 2009 that U.S. intelligence had seen construction activity consistent with an enrichment facility.
That is consistent with the statement by the Iranian vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, Al Akbar Salehi, that his agency took over a military ammunition dump in 2008 and only then began construction on an enrichment facility.
The Iranian decision to withdraw from the "subsidiary agreement" to which it had agreed in February 2003 requiring it to inform the IAEA of any new nuclear facilities as soon as the construction decision was made occurred in the context of a series of moves by the Bush administration to convince Iran that an attack on its nuclear facilities was a serious possibility.
The Guardian reported Jan. 31, 2007, "Senior European policy-makers are increasingly worried that the U.S. administration will resort to air attacks against Iran to try to destroy its suspect nuclear programme."
Then the Washington Post reported Feb. 11 that a foreign diplomat had been told by Vice President Dick Cheney's national security adviser John Hannah that a U.S. attack on Iran was "a real possibility" in 2007.
A few days later Newsweek reported that it was "likely" a third carrier task group would overlap for a period of months with the two existing task forces. The story recalled that the presence of three carrier task groups in the Gulf simultaneously was the same level of U.S. striking power as the administration had in place during the air campaign against Iraq in 2003.
Finally, on Mar. 27, the United States began a naval exercise in the Gulf involving both aircraft carriers and a dozen more warships already in the Gulf, along with about 100 aircraft. The exercise, which took several days to complete, was the first joint naval and air operation since the air campaign against the Saddam Hussein regime.
Just two days later, on Mar. 29, Iran notified the IAEA that it was suspending its implementation of the modified version of its "subsidiary arrangement" with the IAEA, signed in February 2003, which required that it provide "preliminary design information" to the agency as soon as the decision to construct a nuclear facility has been taken.
On Apr. 3, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Maj. Gen. Hassan Firoozabadi, predicted publicly that the United States and Israel would launch a massive attack on the region that summer.
And that same day, Hamidreza Taraghi, the international affairs chief of the Islamic Coalition Party, which was part of the pro-government coalition of the conservative parties, explicitly linked the Iranian shift on its IAEA agreement with the heightened threat from the U.S. military.
U.S. military deployments in the Persian Gulf were "very similar to those before the Iraq invasion", said Taraghi, and therefore, "We should not volunteer information regarding our nuclear sites, as they may be misused by the Americans."
Taraghi was referring to the fact that any design information on Iranian nuclear facilities would help the U.S. and Israeli air forces prepare for an attack on those targets.
The Iranian decision to inform the IAEA of the existence of the Qom site in September appears to reflect a much lower perception of threat of an U.S. attack compared with the perception in early 2007.
4) Insurgents Share a Name, but Pursue Different Goals
Scott Shane, New York Times, October 23, 2009
Washington - As it devises a new Afghanistan policy, the Obama administration confronts a complex geopolitical puzzle: two embattled governments, in Afghanistan and Pakistan; numerous militias aligned with overlapping Islamist factions; and hidden in the factions' midst, the foe that brought the United States to the region eight years ago, Al Qaeda.
But at the core of the tangle are the two Taliban movements, Afghan and Pakistani. They share an ideology and a dominant Pashtun ethnicity, but they have such different histories, structures and goals that the common name may be more misleading than illuminating, some regional specialists say.
"The fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion," said Gilles Dorronsoro, a French scholar of South Asia currently at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
This week, Dorronsoro said, as the Pakistani Army began a major offensive against the Pakistani Taliban, many Americans thought incorrectly that the assault was against the Afghan Taliban, the force that is causing Washington to consider sending more troops to Afghanistan.
At stake is not just semantics. Grasping the differences between the two Taliban forces, and their shifting relationships with Al Qaeda, is crucial to understanding the debate under way in the White House situation room. Though both groups threaten American interests, the Afghan Taliban - the word Taliban means "religious students" - are the primary enemy, mounting attacks daily against the 68,000 American troops in Afghanistan. Washington's biggest fear is that if the Afghan Taliban overrun the country, they could invite Al Qaeda's leaders back from their Pakistani hide-out.
Alex Strick van Linschoten, a Dutch researcher who lives in Kandahar, in the heart of the Afghan Taliban's power base, said that while leaders of the two Taliban groups might say that they share common interests, the two movements are quite separate. "To be honest, the Taliban commanders and groups on the ground in Afghanistan couldn't care less what's happening to their Pakistani brothers across the border," said Strick van Linschoten, who has interviewed many current and former members of the Afghan Taliban.
In fact, the recent attacks of the Pakistani Taliban against Pakistan's government, military and police, in anticipation of the army's current campaign into the Pakistani Taliban's base in South Waziristan, may have strained relations with the Afghan Taliban, said Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence officer who tracks Al Qaeda and the Taliban for the United Nations.
The Afghan Taliban have always had a close relationship with Pakistani intelligence agencies, Barrett said recently. "They don't like the way that the Pakistan Taliban has been fighting the Pakistan government and causing a whole load of problems there," he said.
The Afghan Taliban, whose group is by far the older of the two forces, have been led by Mullah Muhammad Omar since he founded the movement in 1994. They seeks to regain the power they held over most of Afghanistan before being ousted by the American invasion of 2001.
In an interview this week, speaking on the condition of anonymity, an Afghan Taliban commander expressed sympathy for the Pakistani Taliban, but said, "There will not be any support from us." He said the Afghan Taliban "don't have any interest in fighting against other countries."
"Our aim was, and is, to get the occupation forces out and not to get into a fight with a Muslim army," the commander added.
Before 9/11, the Afghan Taliban hosted Osama bin Laden and the other leaders of Al Qaeda, but the groups are now separated geographically, their leaders under pressure from intensive manhunts. On jihadist Web sites, analysts have detected recent tensions between Al Qaeda, whose proclaimed goals are global, and the Afghan Taliban, which have recently claimed that their interests lie solely in Afghanistan.
5) NATO Members: No More Troops To Afghanistan Now
Slobodan Lekic and Vanessa Gera, Associated Press, Friday, October 23, 2009 6:07 AM
Bratislava, Slovakia - NATO members the Netherlands and Denmark said Friday they will not send more troops to Afghanistan unless its Nov. 7 presidential runoff creates a legitimate government and until President Barack Obama decides on a new strategy.
Dutch Defense Minister Eimert Van Middelkoop said his country, with 2,160 troops in Afghanistan, is awaiting the final election results "because the legitimacy of the Afghan government is key," as well as a decision by the Obama administration. "I think most countries are waiting for the American decisions," van Middelkoop said at a meeting in Bratislava of the defense ministers of the 28 NATO countries.
Danish Defense Minister Soeren Gade said allies won't increase troop levels until they are assured the new government in Kabul is committed to the international effort. "I think whoever is going to send more troops to Afghanistan will put up some conditions," said Gade, whose country has 690 soldiers in Afghanistan. "They need to see the new Afghan president and say: 'If we send more troops to your country, you have to deal with this, this and this.' We have to make sure the new government in Afghanistan are committed to their job before we send any more troops to Afghanistan."
On the sidelines of the meeting, the top U.N. official in Afghanistan, Kai Eide, said the extensive fraud that marked the first round of presidential elections will be reduced but not eliminated in the runoff. "We will not be able to carry out dramatic changes," Eide said.
He added that the security situation has not improved since the Aug. 20 ballot, when threats by Taliban militants resulted in a very low turnout despite a massive campaign by NATO troops and government forces to prevent attacks. He said that whatever government is formed after the elections must reach out to the insurgents. "A peace and reconciliation process with the (insurgents) should be one of the top priorities of the new government," he said.
6) A New Vote Poses Similar Troubles For Afghans
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, October 23, 2009
Kabul, Afghanistan - The serious fraud that clouded the credibility of Afghanistan's presidential election last summer is unlikely to be repeated on the same scale in the runoff set for Nov. 7, but it cannot be altogether eliminated, said Afghan and international officials here as they scrambled to prepare for the vote.
At least as worrisome is the likelihood of low turnout caused by continuing threats from insurgents, winter weather that has already brought subfreezing temperatures to some areas and a deep sense among Afghans that there is little reason to vote a second time.
"None of us want to see a repeat of what happened in the first election," said Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative here. "Can we stop fraud? No, we cannot, but we can reduce it."
It will be harder to persuade the many Afghans who live in rural areas and who have little experience with elections to vote in a second round. "Many Afghans believe the elections are over," Eide said.
The turnout in the first round, held on Aug. 20, was about 38 percent, and most analysts expect significantly fewer people to vote this time.
7) Honduras crisis back to square one as talks fail
Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, Friday, October 23, 2009 2:39 PM
Tegucigalpa - Ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya pulled out of talks with the country's post-coup de facto leaders on Friday, throwing efforts to resolve a months-long political crisis back to square one.
Zelaya pulled his representatives out of meetings with envoys of de facto leader Roberto Micheletti that were the latest in a series of attempts to resolve the political deadlock sparked by a June 28 military coup. "As of now we see this phase as finished," Zelaya envoy Mayra Mejia said shortly after midnight (0600 GMT) at the hotel where both sides have been negotiating for three weeks.
All attempts to reach a deal have snagged over whether Zelaya can return to power for the last few months of his term, which ends in January.
The leftist logging magnate said Micheletti's refusal to reinstate him will strip a November 29 presidential election of legitimacy and further isolate the caretaker government. "All countries, without exception have condemned the coup and refused to recognize this election process, which will be full of irregularities and fraud," Zelaya told local radio.
The deadlock in Honduras is proving a challenge for U.S. President Barack Obama after he vowed better relations with Latin America. Washington suspended the visas of more figures in the de facto government this week to pressure a settlement. "The two sides need to seal this deal now. Time is running out," U.S. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said on Friday. "We have not given up on a deal yet ... We are focused on these guys sitting down and agreeing," he said.
8) Honduran President Mel Zelaya Retains Public Support
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, October 23, 2009
Washington - Nearly four months after Honduran President Mel Zelaya was forced from office, he retains considerable public support, according to a new survey by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.
By a large 22-point margin (60 to 38 percent), the Honduran public disapproves of the removal on June 28 of Zelaya as president. Two-thirds approve of Zelaya's performance as president. Nineteen percent rated his performance as "excellent" and another 48 percent as "good."
The national survey, which involved face-to-face interviews with 621 randomly selected Hondurans from October 9-13, found that Zelaya is considerably more popular than Roberto Micheletti, who has been serving as de facto president. By a 2-1 margin (57 to 28 percent), Hondurans have a negative personal opinion of Micheletti. And a slight majority gives Micheletti's tenure as president negative marks.
Hondurans are eager to participate in the elections scheduled for November 28, according to the survey, but there is widespread concern about their being held with Micheletti in office. Eighty-one percent think the elections should take place, but only a bare majority (54 percent) believes they would be legitimate if held under the acting government.
"The international community's rejection of the coup reflects the views held by most Hondurans," said Mark Feierstein, partner and vice president of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. "Mel Zelaya should not have been forcibly removed from office."
[From the survey itself:
http://www.gqrr.com/repository/documents/1574.pdf - JFP.]
Q.14 Do you think the Honduran Constitution should be amended to allow for the re-election of presidents?
9) Iran says it will respond next week on IAEA reactor deal
Glenn Kessler and Thomas Erdbrink, Washington Post, Friday, October 23, 2009 3:14 PM
Iran said Friday that it would respond next week to an international offer to supply fuel for a nuclear research reactor in Tehran, leaving unclear whether it was prepared to accept a deal that would reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium and assuage Western concerns about its nuclear program.
Ignoring a Friday deadline set by International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei for a formal response to a draft agreement negotiated earlier this week, Iranian officials instead floated a proposal to buy the reactor fuel from abroad. The proposition appeared likely to exacerbate U.S. suspicions that Iran wants to maintain the option to convert its uranium stocks into weapons-grade material at some point.
"We will give our answer to Mr. ElBaradei next week," said Ali Asghar Soltanieh, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA, according to Iranian state-run television.
In Vienna, the IAEA announced that Iran informed ElBaradei on Friday "that it is considering the proposal in depth and in a favorable light, but it needs time until the middle of next week to provide a response." It said ElBaradei "hopes that Iran's response will equally be positive, since approval of this agreement will signal a new era of cooperation."
The agency said the other parties to the IAEA deal - Russia, France and the United States - "have indicated today their positive response" to the draft agreement.
Washington's approval "is consistent with the agreement in principle" reached between Iran and six world powers in Geneva on Oct. 1 in response to "Iran's request for assistance for its Tehran Research Reactor to continue to produce medical isotopes," National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said in a statement. "We are waiting to see if all the parties accept Director General ElBaradei's proposal so that implementation can begin."
If the material were sent abroad, it would also give Western intelligence a clear picture of the quality of the enriched material that Iran has produced - insights that the government in Tehran may be reluctant to provide. Rumors have circulated that Iran has had trouble producing high-quality enriched uranium, and revealing that might reduce Iran's leverage in talks with the West.
Speaking Friday on state television, Soltanieh indicated that the main sticking point was "guarantees for the certain execution of this deal." He said guarantees were "necessary because of the past record of some of the negotiating sides."
He added: "We are studying the draft agreement from legal and technical perspectives. I am in Tehran at the moment to report to my superiors . . . and next week in Vienna we will express our views. The fact is that there was no deadline for this; just Mr. ElBaradei said that it would be very nice if everybody could respond by Friday."
10) Israel Signals Concern on Iran Talks
Isabel Kershner, New York Times, October 23, 2009
Jerusalem - The Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, said on Thursday that Iran must cease all uranium enrichment, a statement that reflected Israeli concern over a draft agreement taking shape in Vienna, where earlier this week Iran took part in nuclear talks with the United States, Russia and France.
Under the agreement, about three-quarters of Iran's known stockpile of nuclear fuel would be shipped to Russia for enrichment to levels suitable for a peaceful nuclear reactor but too low for weapons. Such a deal would delay Iran's ability to build a nuclear weapon for about a year, buying more time for President Obama to search for a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff.
In the first response by a senior Israeli leader, Barak said what was necessary was "the cessation of enrichment by Iran, and not just the removal of the enriched material." Speaking at a conference hosted by Israel's president, Shimon Peres, in Jerusalem, Barak urged "all the players" that "under no circumstances should any option be removed from the table," meaning that the threats of tougher sanctions and military action should remain.
11) Allied Exit Strategy At Risk As Afghan Police Run Out Of Recruits
Jerome Starkey, Times of London, October 23, 2009
Kabul - It is the $120-a-month job that is crucial to any Allied exit strategy from Afghanistan but at the moment a career in the police force is only for the desperate. American efforts to expand Afghanistan's security forces are faltering, leaving the largest training centre in the country operating at only 25 per cent capacity.
Recruitment has been low in recent months amid rising Taleban violence and political instability after the unresolved election. Thousands of men are leaving the force every month, with about one police officer in three resigning over the course of a year, The Times learnt. Some have joined the Taleban.
"We simply can't recruit enough police," General Khudadad Agha, the officer in charge of training, said. "The salary is low and the job is very dangerous. If someone wants $120 a month then they join up. But 95 per cent of the new recruits are uneducated, unskilled and they can't find food. That's why they join the police."
Western mentors admit that bribes are unavoidable, when the cost of supporting a family is double what the men are paid. "The best we can hope for is that, if they are taking bribes, at least they know it's wrong," one said.
A strong and competent police force is a central part of General Stanley McChrystal's counter-insurgency strategy. The top US commander in Afghanistan has called for the force to be increased from about 93,000 to 160,000.
There is still a long way to go. Official figures show that only 1,000 recruits signed up in August. The problem is more severe in Wardak province where, earlier this month, a policeman shot and killed two American soldiers.
Recruits for the Afghan Public Protection Force are usually sent to Laghman to be trained by American Special Forces. "There hasn't been a single recruit for more than a month and a half," General Agha said. "More than a hundred people were rounded up and sent to the training centre, but the commander in charge told me they ran away. Iran opened the border [in the west] and they all thought it was better to go abroad."
Those who do graduate are armed with AK47 assault rifles and most serve as "light infantry in counterinsurgency operations", according to a critical report by the European Union.
Police officers are more likely to be killed or injured than their counterparts in the Afghan army, who usually serve alongside Nato troops backed up by fighter jets and drones. The police often man checkpoints that are vulnerable to suicide attacks and ambushes.
At least 1,290 policemen were killed last year and 2,393 were wounded; almost 5 per cent of the official total.
Western diplomats say that no one knows exactly how many police officers there are, because corrupt commanders claim more salaries than they have staff.
The pre-election police training focused on weapons and included none of the usual lessons in literacy, human rights and law. An independent report said that it was "barely conceivable how eight weeks', let alone three weeks', training can adequately bring any form of security".
The authors added: "Our view is that the spiralling increase in police deaths and wounding will further increase with quick-fix recruiting, poor training and equipping."
The greatest fear is that graduates will take their training and weapons over to the insurgents. Ahmad Shah, 27, left the police in 2003 and joined the Taleban in Wardak.
"Back then the salary was only $60 a month," he said. "We were always getting attacked by the Taleban, and I couldn't visit my family in Jagatur because the Taleban controlled the area. Now I joined the Taleban, I don't get a regular salary but I get around $300 a month, and it's much safer."
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