DOHA – Almost a decade of neglect has raised serious concerns about the readiness of Afghan security forces to take over from foreign forces by the end of 2014, a new report claims.
The report, released on May 10 by the British charity Oxfam and three other rights groups, also cited evidence of human rights abuses committed by Afghan forces, including killings and child sex abuse.
Under a plan agreed last year, NATO-led forces will begin a gradual handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces from July. Seven areas have been identified to begin stage one of that process.
But Oxfam said that until 2009 there had been a “striking lack of attention” to developing the quality of Afghanistan's security forces.
The report said there were no effective systems for citizens to lodge a complaint against the police and the army or to receive compensation.
Foreign troops also needed to do more to prevent growing rights abuses by Afghan forces, Oxfam noted.
It said the Afghan national police and troops were responsible for at least 10 percent of the 2,777 civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2010, though the Taliban were to blame for most of the killings.
“There is a serious risk that unless adequate accountability mechanisms are put in place, violations of human rights and humanitarian law will escalate – and Afghan civilians will pay the price,” the report said.
“Moral, Political and Legal Imperative”
The report said rights groups had documented abuses including “night raids carried out without adequate precautions to protect civilians, the recruitment and sexual abuse of children, mistreatment during detention, and the killing and abuse of civilians by local police”.
“Combating abusive conduct on the part of the ANSF [Afghan National Security Forces] and the climate of impunity in which abuse takes place … is a moral, political and legal imperative for both the international community and the Afghan government,” it added.
Under the handover plan, all foreign combat troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
There are now about 150,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and 285,000 Afghan troops and police, with plans to increase Afghan forces to a total 305,000 by October 2011, according to U.S. defense department figures.
However, that tight timeframe, set against the backdrop of a growing Taliban-led insurgency, has raised questions among some analysts and non-government organisations about whether Afghan forces will be ready in time.
“It's not too late, but an adequate response will not be possible without genuine political will at the highest levels of civilian and military leadership, both Afghan and international,” the report said.
US and NATO commanders say they are on track to reach the targets set for Afghan security forces, although they acknowledge that high drop-out rates remain a major problem.
The head of NATO's training mission in Afghanistan said in February that the “attrition” rate in the Afghan army had hit 32 percent in 2010. Such drop-out rates for the army and police meant the NATO training mission had to take in 111,000 recruits last year to expand the force by 79,000.
* Published under an agreement with Al Jazeera.