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Cancellation of social outreach program led to attacks on coalition soldiers: ambassador

By JENNIFER CAMPBELL, Ottawa Citizen August 29, 2012

OTTAWA — The most troubling development in the seemingly endless war in Afghanistan has been the spike in so-called “green on blue” incidents — attacks on members of coalition forces by their Afghan partners.

So far in 2012, at least 42 NATO soldiers have been killed in attacks by Afghan security force members or insurgents disguised as soldiers or police, 12 of them coming in August alone. That figure has been climbing since 2008, when there were at most one or two such attacks per year, to the point where there are now two or three a week.

You can’t say Barna Karimi didn’t see it coming.

When a community-based security program was ended in 2011, Karimi — who is the current Afghan ambassador to Canada — warned authorities in his country and coalition forces that funded that program about the possibility it could lead to coalition forces casualties.

Karimi has been in Canada since March, but before becoming ambassador he worked in local governance in Afghanistan, where he ran the Afghan Social Outreach Program (ASOP). Phoenix-educated and with experience working for two corporations in the U.S., the ambassador is a close confidant of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and was trusted with this program, which worked with district councils and community elders to establish stability in communities.

He said it’s always sad when innocent lives are lost and noted that it’s especially so “when they’re supposed to be allies and friends.”

In addition to a considerable jump in the number of deaths of coalition force members caused by Afghan soldiers and police this year, there’s been a rise in the number of Afghan soldiers and police killing their own comrades, resulting in concern about the planned U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014 when the Afghan forces will be on their own.

“The infiltration of some of the Taliban or other terrorists within those police forces is causing the problem,” he said, and added that some want to make sure the Afghan security programs fail and people lose confidence in them. “This makes the situation hard for the coalition forces to work with those local police forces.”

His social outreach program ensured that those who were recruited to the Afghan police forces were introduced by tribal leaders and council members at a local level.

“Our involvement wasn’t actually on the military side of it,” he said. “We had a program where we were creating councils to work with the district governor to monitor the government’s work. There was also a channel for the district governor to work with the community to make sure the community’s voice was heard by the government.”

So it made sense that when the Afghan local police program was established, they asked the ASOP to help facilitate the recruitment process.

“The tribal leaders were working with the ministry of interior to make sure the right people are recruited in the forces. Those tribal leaders — prominent figures and religious leaders — were nominating local people who wanted to become involved in policing and whom they knew.”

Unfortunately, the ambassador said, this program was discontinued in 2011. And, he points to the alarming rise in killings as evidence that there’s a link. “A good chunk of that [number] is by Afghan local police,” Karimi said. “If they follow the original formula, these incidents would happen less frequently, or wouldn’t happen. I’m sure there are some issues in identifying and vetting the right people. The tribal leaders were taking some responsibility for them.

“My thinking is that if we would have used proper structure of representative leaders at the district level and listening to them about which are right for the local police force, this wouldn’t be happening.”

He said no one “not even me, could have predicted this massive number of killings would happen but it’s obvious that any program not owned by the people doesn’t give you the right results.

“The Afghan local police have to provide protection but if the people don’t own the program, what kind of protection will they get? With proper understanding and measures, we can avoid these types of things.”

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Cancellation+social+outreach+program+attacks+coalition+soldiers+ambassador/7163866/story.html#ixzz2AifyGW7e



240 Argyle Ave. Ottawa, Ontario, K2P-1B9 | Phone: (613) 563-4223 / 65 | Fax: (613) 563-4962 | contact@afghanembassy.ca