The U.S. military has halted the training of Afghan government-backed militias for at least a month to give the Americans time to redo the vetting of new recruits after a string of attacks by Afghan soldiers and police on their international allies, officials said Sunday.
There have been 34 insider attacks this year — at least 12 in August alone — that have killed 45 international troops, putting intense strain on the relationship between coalition forces and the Afghans they live and work with. The shootings also have thrown doubts on one of the pillars of the U.S.-led coalition’s planned withdrawal by the end of 2014 – training Afghan forces so they can take the lead for security in the country.
Lt. Col. John Harrell, a spokesman for U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan, said the pause in training affects about 1,000 trainees of the Afghan Local Police, a militia backed by the government in Kabul.
“The training of the ALP recruits has been paused while we go through this re-vetting process, to take a look at this process to see if there’s anything that we can improve,” Harrell said. “It may take a month, it may take two months, we don’t know.”
International forces have been re-vetting Afghan forces across the board, but U.S. special operations forces decided to stop training the ones they were responsible for – the 16,000-strong ALP – while redoing the background checks.
Afghan Local Police forces that have already been trained will continue to operate, and the government will continue to recruit new members, Harrell said.
Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for the international military coalition in Afghanistan, also said there was no set date for the training of the local police to resume.
The pause in training for the government-backed militias was first reported by the Washington Post.
Harrell said the Americans last month also put a two-week pause on operations by the Afghan special forces last month to re-vet those soldiers for any potential ties to insurgents. He did not say whether any suspicious links were uncovered.
The international forces in Afghanistan have been revisiting both security for their forces and re-examining the backgrounds of the Afghan forces in the wake of the recent attacks on international troops.
The Post also reported that training of special operations forces had been halted, but a spokesman for the NATO training mission in Afghanistan, or NTM-A, which oversees this training said there has been no such pause.
“There has been no halt in training with NTM-A assets as they relate to special forces,” said Maj. Steve Neta of the Canadian military. He also said no other training programs involving the traditional military or police have been halted for re-vetting.
The head of the Afghan special operations forces said there has been no pause to the training of his forces. The program to train Afghan special operations forces had already been on break for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and had been scheduled to restart in mid-September.