Entries in Security Transition (7)


Afghanistan Taking Control of Major Prison Run by US

Kevin Horan/Stone(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The U.S. and Afghanistan seem headed for another serious setback in their relations as an Afghan three-star general is poised to assume control of Bagram prison from the American military.

Gen. Ghulam Farooq Barekzai, a former top official with the Defense Ministry, has been named to run the detention center that holds at least 3,200 inmates.

The U.S. agreed last month to allow Afghanistan to run the prison after Kabul argued that it was a violation of its national sovereignty to have prisoners detained indefinitely by foreign guards.

What is disturbing to Washington and the Pentagon is that the U.S. will have no veto power over which prisoners are released, many of whom are mid-to-high level Taliban militants.

It's expected that if these detainees are set free, they'll return to the battlefield to fight against coalition and Afghan forces.

At best, the Afghans will permit American officials to have what is termed a "consultative role" to express concerns about certain detainees.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Afghan Soldier Turns Gun on Australian Mentors, Injures Three

REZA SHIRMOHAMMADI/AFP/Getty Images(SYDNEY) -- For the second time in two weeks, an Afghan soldier has turned his gun on his Australian mentors, and in response, the Australians have disarmed a unit of the Afghan army.

The incident took place in the Uruzgan province of Afghanistan on Tuesday when an Afghan soldier fired his AK-47 and a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) at his Australian mentors, seriously injuring three of them, according to the Australian army.

The Australians then disarmed the Afghans, to whom they are slowly transitioning responsibility for security.  The Australian army said they did so "as a precaution."  It's not clear how long the Afghans will be disarmed.

Two weeks ago, another Afghan soldier opened fire on his Australian mentors -- that time in Kandahar -- killing three and injuring seven.

On at least 15 occasions this year, an Afghan police officer or soldier has shot his mentors.  That is more than the total number of such incidents in the last five years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Afghan Security Transition Continues in Mehterlam

U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Dexter S. Saulisbury/Released(MEHTERLAM, Afghanistan) -- In a ceremony kept secret from the public, the United States on Tuesday officially handed over security of Mehterlam to Afghan security forces.

Police feared the event would be attacked, so they shut down the area completely.  The normally busy provincial capital of more than 100,000 became a ghost town.  The only vehicles that allowed in were American armored trucks and Ford Rangers belonging to the Afghan army and police.

The United States' slow withdrawal from Afghanistan is dependent on cities like Mehterlam being able to secure themselves.  Already, some U.S. soldiers have been withdrawn from Laghman province, of which Mehterlam is the capital.

But Afghan President Hamid Karzai's aides fear Mehterlam is the most fragile of the seven areas earmarked for transition this week.  And -- while it's not a universal sentiment -- many Afghan and U.S. officials in the city say that the police are so badly under-equipped and the justice system is so corrupt, there is no guarantee the Afghans can provide rule of law themselves.

ABC News spent five days in Mehterlam ahead of Tuesday's transition ceremony, speaking with dozens of Afghan and American officials, including Afghan police and army commanders and American officers based in the Provincial Reconstruction Team base inside the city.

The police, which have primarily responsibility for security of the city, are motivated but outmatched.  There are only a few dozen officers patrolling the city.  That would be like asking the New Orleans Police Department to maintain security with fewer than 100 cops -- and they don't have to worry about militants coming in from Pakistan, which according to Afghan officials is the main threat here.

Mehterlam police do not patrol with armored trucks, even though they are sometimes targeted with improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.  And they do not have bulletproof vests they can wear over their uniforms, even though they have asked their government for them.

Their shortcomings are compounded by endemic corruption that Afghan and U.S. officials admit runs through the justice system.  Police commanders complain that even when they do make arrests, there is no guarantee the arrested will be punished or remain in prison.

Criminals and insurgents have managed to buy or threaten their way to freedom, according to two Afghan officials and two U.S. officials working in Mehterlam.  Even the son of a Taliban commander was freed, according to the Afghan officials, after his father paid or threatened -- or both -- judges who were supposed to sentence him.

Some Afghan and U.S. officials based in Mehterlam suggest that picture is too negative.  They admit the police and justice system are far from perfect, but they have made positive strides.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


NATO Begins Security Transfer in Afghanistan

Department of Defense/Pfc. Jorge A. Ortiz, U.S. Marine Corps(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- The much-discussed, long-awaited start of the handover of security control in Afghanistan from NATO troops to Afghan forces officially began Sunday when the largely peaceful province of Bamiyan in the country’s mountainous central region became Kabul’s responsibility.

The region is one of the safest places in the country, but Afghan officials still weren’t taking any chances.  The government didn’t announce the transition ahead of time, and the handover ceremony was held at a police station amid tight security to prevent an insurgent attack.

Afghan police and security forces in the province will gradually take over from NATO-led soldiers from New Zealand.  The New Zealand soldiers are expected to remain in the area for one year.

The NATO coalition has promised Afghanistan it will turn over all security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.

President Obama has already announced that some 33,000 U.S. troops out of the 100,000 in Afghanistan will leave by the end of 2012.  The reports one quarter of France's 4,000 troops and nearly 1,000 British soldiers will also leave at the same time.

International military forces will turn over control of security to Afghan forces in six other areas of the country this week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Hotel Attack Won't Deter Security Transition in Afghanistan

ABC News(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- Afghanistan's government is determined to move ahead with plans to take over security chores from coalition forces in seven cities and provinces despite an attack by Taliban militants on a luxury hotel that is frequented by Westerners.

Tuesday night's surprise assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul left 12 people dead, while all eight enemy fighters were either killed by NATO helicopters or blew themselves up.

Afghan officials haven't figured out how the gunmen and suicide bombers managed to penetrate the circle of security surrounding the hotel, given that it's one of the most fortified buildings in Kabul.

The Taliban said a conference of 300 officials to discuss the security handover was the target but fewer than 40 had shown up at the time of attack.

It's possible the Taliban might have been tipped off by sympathetic officials about the hotel's security arrangements or were allowed access to the facility by the very forces assigned to protect it.

Despite all the questions left unanswered, the government said Wednesday that the police and army will take over protecting seven areas of the country, including Kabul, from U.S. and NATO forces on or around July 20.

Dr. Ashraf Ghani, who's in charge of the transition, said, "Our enemies should understand that they do not have the ability to block our national intentions."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Secretary Robert Gates Visits Iraq for Final Time as Defense Chief

Charles Dharapak - Pool/Getty Images(BAGHDAD) -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates is in Iraq for what is possibly his last trip to the country as civilian leader of the Pentagon.

With the U.S. mission there winding down, Gates is meeting with various U.S. military commanders and Iraqi leaders about the pace of training national forces to take over security responsibilities from American troops.

There are currently 50,000 U.S. forces in Iraq and nearly all will be withdrawn by the end of the year.  In the meantime, Gates is scheduled to leave his post with the Defense Department, though he hasn't yet given a firm departure date.

Upon his arrival Wednesday, Gates spoke with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and other officials about the need to complete various Iraqi ministries, especially those dealing with the defense of their country.

He also emphasized America's long-term partnership with Iraq, covering three areas: the state of the Iraqi security forces, stability challenges Iraq will face, and the U.S. ability to engage with Iraq across a wide range of activities.

Gates, who took over for Donald Rumsfeld in late 2006, travels to northern Iraq Thursday to discuss other matters with Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Districts Ready for Security Transition in Parts of Afghanistan

Photo Courtesy -- U.S. Department of Defense(AFGHANISTAN) -- July 2011 is the date the Obama administration has selected to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan and begin the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government. 

The process, termed "security transition," will mean pulling U.S. troops out of secure areas, known as districts, that make up the provinces of Afghanistan, then redistributing them elsewhere and eventually not replacing them.

ABC News has learned that the other 47 countries there under NATO control want to eventually turn over security in their areas where the situation would allow.

The NATO Summit in Lisbon, Portugal that begins Nov. 18 is going to begin the NATO process of security transition.  Gen. Petraeus is compiling a list of districts that will be eligible to turn the security responsibilities over to the Afghans.  The leaders at the NATO Summit will then approve some of those on the list for what are expected to be a small number of districts where security will transition from NATO to the Afghans.

U.S. officials have said they expect areas to the west and northern part of the country to be ready for such a transition, but not likely in the East and South, where the U.S. is engaged in active combat, though those areas are not completely out of the question.  Consequently, areas under the control of NATO allies will likely be the first to transition next year.

Officials also say that eligibility will be based on more than just security, but a whole range of conditions such as whether there’s enough Afghan civilian capacity to meet the population’s needs if NATO was to leave a district.

Officials say the timelines for transitioning could take six to nine months.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio