Sun, May 25, 2008 - Page 4 News List

EU to double Afghan mission

FURTHER ENGAGEMENT The EUPOL mission aims to help develop Afghanistan's police force as well as mentor and advise interior ministry officials on the rule of law

AP AND AFP , WASHINGTON, BRUSSELS AND KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN

The EU is expected to confirm next week plans to double the size of its police mission in Afghanistan to some 400 personnel, diplomats and a document said on Friday.

“EU foreign ministers at their meeting in Brussels will want to show their determination to boost cooperation” ahead of a June 12 international aid conference in Paris, a European diplomat said.

A draft statement prepared by ambassadors ahead of tomorrow’s talks said: “The EU will commit itself to substantially increase its efforts, with the aim of doubling” the police contingent.

The so-called EUPOL Afghanistan mission is expected be “double the size over the next 12 months,” another diplomat confirmed.

On March 10, the foreign ministers said they intended to boost the police training operation, amid US-led calls for thousands of instructors to be sent to the conflict-torn country.

The EU “expresses its readiness to consider further enhancement of EU engagement, particularly in the field of police and wider rule of law,” they said at the time.

But the ministers are expected to go into more detail tomorrow, even if their final declaration will not contain any numbers.

The EU’s police mission had been due to rise to around 230 police, law enforcement and justice experts, as well as administrative staff, deployed throughout the country, and not just Kabul as originally planned.

Its aim is to help build the Afghan police force, as well as mentor and advise interior ministry officials.

However the mission has come in for criticism, notably from NATO and the US.

In September, NATO’s civilian representative to Afghanistan criticized the lack of EU efforts, stressing that Afghan police remained widely corrupt and inefficient, aiding drug-trafficking.

Meanwhile, five Taliban militants were killed when their own bomb blew up as they embedded it in a road regularly used by international troops in southern Afghanistan, police said on Friday.

The militants were planting the device near the town of Musa Qala in the southern province of Helmand, provincial police chief Mohammad Hussein Andiwal said.

NATO and Afghan troops often travel on the same road in their operations in the troubled area, he said. A British soldier was killed a week ago in a similar explosion near Musa Qala.

The blast tore the bodies of four of the militants to pieces, Andiwal said.

Musa Qala was a key Taliban base for 10 months until last December when mainly Afghan, British and US troops reclaimed control after an offensive lasting several days.

The southern town was also a key drugs producing center — Helmand accounts for most of Afghanistan’s vast opium and heroin output, a US$4 billion a year trade from which the Taliban profit.

Meanwhile, the head of a leading European security organization is seeking money from the Bush administration to help tighten the border between Afghanistan and Central Asian countries.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s secretary-general, Marc Perrin de Brichambaut, met with US administration officials this week on proposals to help Afghanistan tighten what he calls “a completely open border.”

The organization hopes to set up a training center in Tajikistan.

De Brichambaut said on Friday the organization wants up to US$20 million to set up programs that would train border monitors, customs officials and anti-trafficking police in Afghanistan and Central Asia.

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