11k "Auxiliary Police" to be deployed in the South

The Afghan government has begun deploying more than 11,000 auxiliary police in the south of the country to combat worsening lawlessness.

President Hamid Karzai says the move is aimed at curbing the insurgency there. But there is growing opposition to the auxiliary police from ordinary Afghans complaining of corrupt behaviour. One diplomat has described the auxiliary police as legalised militias loyal to their warlords, and not the central government in Kabul.

Alarm bells

Afghanistan has a problem with lawlessness and nowhere more so than in the south. On paper it has a 60,000-strong police force, but many believe it is much smaller than that. When in June President Karzai announced his intention to supplement the force with auxiliary police, alarm bells started ringing. There has been a concerted effort to persuade the private armies of warlords to hand over their weapons in recent years.

But the formation of auxiliary police units has, in places, effectively re-armed those private armies and put them into brand new uniforms. The training they have received has been basic and, some complain, overly militaristic. To compound matters their pay is low and, as in the regular police force, endemic corruption is expected to be a problem.

The auxiliary police are also supposed to plug the gaps left not only by the regular police, but the Afghan army and foreign troops in an area caught in the throes of a violent insurgency. In Helmand province, public confidence in a new 1,500-strong auxiliary force is low, with residents already complaining of extortion and theft by uniformed gunmen. And yet the Afghan government is under intense pressure to impose if not law, then at least order, in such places outside its complete control.