Mideast edition, Saturday, June 9, 2007

ARLINGTON, Va. — The U.S. military is having a hard time filling a request from commanders in Afghanistan for 3,400 troops to train Afghan police, a senior Defense official said.

In March, a spokesman for Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan said the request for the trainers had been made by the commander of Task Force Phoenix, which is in charge of training Afghan police and soldiers.

As of May, only 200 U.S. troops had received orders to go to Afghanistan to fill the request.

The U.S. military just does not have enough troops with the right skill sets to send to Afghanistan, the senior Defense official explained on Friday.

To meet the request, the U.S. military would have to move U.S. trainers from Iraq to Afghanistan, the official said.

Therefore, the U.S. military is looking to its NATO partners to help train the Afghan police, the official said.

The official had no timetable for how long it might take to line up enough trainers to fill the request.

The European Union, which already has about 100 police trainers and mentors in country, plans to add another 60 by the middle of the month, said Michael Freienstein, a spokesman for the German Project for Support of the Police in Afghanistan.

The coalition’s goal is to train 82,000 Afghan police officers by the end of 2008, said Maj. Sheldon Smith, a spokesman for Combined Security Transition Command—Afghanistan.

“The police are the tip of the spear in Afghanistan’s fight against terrorism and they need maximum international support toward becoming a self-sustaining force,” Smith said in a Friday e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

But on Tuesday, Gen. Dan McNeill, NATO commander in Afghanistan, told reporters that the Afghan interior ministry was “several years behind the Ministry of Defense” in many people’s assessment.

McNeill also said the lack of effective police in some areas of the country posed a challenge to the coalition.

“There’s a lot of work to be done yet on the police,” McNeill said. “The international community seems to be slowly coming in behind that and galvanizing a bit to get it done. But I wouldn’t delude you; we’ve got a ways to go before we get there.”

The issue of international support for the Afghan police is expected to come up during next week’s NATO Defence Ministers Meetings in Brussels, Belgium, said Lt. Col. Todd Vician, a Defense Department spokesman.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now