Britain is to help to train 10,000 extra Afghan soldiers to serve in Helmand to bring forward the date when British troops can be withdrawn from parts of the province and replaced by Afghanistan’s national army.
Under an Afghan-surge plan being discussed between Washington and London, British and American troops in Helmand would split the responsibility 50-50, taking part in an accelerated programme to boost the number of Afghan soldiers and police in the province to more than 17,000.
After the murder of five British soldiers by an Afghan policeman trained by Britain’s military instructors, a fast-track system to bring another 10,000 ANA (Afghan National Army) into Helmand could have inherent risks.
Major-General Jim Dutton, the British deputy commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, warned after the shooting in Nad-e Ali last week that similar incidents might occur.
The additional 10,000 Afghan troops being deployed to Helmand will receive basic training in Kabul military schools and then transfer to Helmand, where they will be partnered by British and American units. Under the partnering concept, British troops carry out both combat and training, as they did in Iraq.
However, concerns were expressed yesterday over the security implications for accelerating recruitment of Afghans for operations in Helmand.
Field Marshal Lord Inge, former Chief of the Defence Staff, said: “Who will be in charge of vetting all these new recruits? I hope we will have people sitting in on the vetting process. It’s also a hell of a lot of extra Afghans for British troops to take on.”
Give training and 10,000 guns to 10,000 locals and let them control their own country? Interesting idea. But what if they decide they want to control their own country?