U.S. forces have suspended the training of Afghan local police forces in response to a surge of attacks by infiltrators, but the work of Canada's 900 military trainers will continue.
The U.S. move affects about 1,000 Afghan trainees who were part of a special American-led effort to bolster local police presence in Taliban-infected regions. NATO's mission to upgrade the Afghan National Security Force and the Afghan National Police – the program under which Canada works – was not affected by the American decision, Lieutenant-General Adrian Bradshaw, deputy commander of the International Security Assistance Force, said in a statement Sunday.
Canada has some 900 Armed Forces personnel working mostly around Kabul, but with a smaller team working in the north near Mazar-e Sharif, training members of the national army and the national police force.
"Obviously, the risk is still there," Department of National Defence spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Lemay said in an interview. "We don't deny it – there is always risk. But the selection process for the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police, through NATO, has been going through rigorous upgrades and improvement.
"So for us, we remain cognizant of the risk but none of our Canadians have been targeted by any of these incidents."
NATO is eager to have Afghan forces assume responsibility for security in the country by the end of 2014, and are training a 350,000-strong army and national police force to take on that job. But there has been a surge in attacks by Afghans against the trainers, and 45 international military personnel have been killed so far this year – the majority of them American. In the latest such incident last week, three Australian troops were killed.
Lt.-Col. Lemay said the Americans are leading their own effort to train local police, and the attacks have been carried out by militants who infiltrated the force or used stolen uniforms, or simply by trainees acting on grudges.
The attacks are straining an alliance already stretched by a tense relationship with a notoriously corrupt Afghan government and disagreements over NATO tactics that Kabul claims endanger civilians.
"With this increased interest in the insider threat, everybody started looking at it and saying: 'What can we do to make sure that all of our vetting processes are in place?' We're going through and looking at everything," said Lieutenant-Colonel Todd Harrell, a spokesman in Afghanistan for the U.S. special operations forces.
"It may take a month, it may take two months, we don't know," Lt.-Col. Harrell said.
Despite the halt in training in some areas, the Afghan local police operations are continuing and have been effective against the insurgency, Lt.-Gen. Bradshaw said.
While attacks by suicide bombers and from improvised explosive devices continue, the NATO deputy commander also insisted the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are gaining strength. He said NATO staff met Sunday with Afghan security officials and with President Hamid Karzai to address the internal threat from infiltrators.
"We expressed confidence that the ANSF will be more than capable of taking over full responsibility for Afghanistan's security in 2014, and will thereafter enjoy strong international support," Lt.-Gen. Bradshaw said.
With a report from Associated Press