Newly appointed ISAF commander General David Petraeus has scored his first political victory in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports that Petraeus has convinced President Hamid Karzai to back local "community police" programs in Afghanistan:
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has approved a U.S.-backed plan to create local defense forces across the country in an attempt to generate new grassroots opposition to the Taliban, U.S. and Afghan officials said Wednesday.
The plan Karzai approved calls for the creation of as many as 10,000 "community police" who would be controlled and paid by the Interior Ministry, according to a senior Afghan government official.
U.S. military officials said the community police program would be modeled upon a set of local defense units, called the Afghan Public Protection Police, created over the past year in Wardak province by U.S. Special Forces. That effort has achieved mixed results, according to several military sources, but it has been regarded as the most palatable of the various local security initiatives pushed by the U.S. military because its members wear uniforms and report to the Interior Ministry.
"It's a community watch on steroids," said a U.S. military official in Kabul. "The goal is to create an environment that will be inhospitable to lawlessness, to reduce the number of places where insurgents can operate."
Petraeus has succeeded in doing what General Stanley McChrystal could not do for more than a year -- getting Karzai to back this program.
One thing sticks out here: the size of the force. Given that the Taliban is strong in rural areas, this program will have to be expanded vastly beyond the 10,000 members currently approved. In Iraq, the Awakening blossomed to more than 90,000 members at its height, and they were supported by more than 400,000 Iraqi police and soldiers, as well as 170,000 U.S. troops. Petraeus's victory is a good start, and hopefully he can get Karzai to back the creation of more forces.