US weighs doubling Afghan security force: general
The US military is looking at doubling the size of Afghan security forces but the option has not yet been approved by the US government or NATO allies,a US general said on Tuesday.
President Barack Obama announced a new strategy for Afghanistan last week that calls for expanding the Afghan army from 90,000 to 134,000 and keeping the police force at about 82,000.
But the officer in charge of training Afghan forces, General Richard Formica, confirmed that the military in an "initial assessment" weighed a much larger security force.
"We've looked at numbers that come close to nearly doubling, not quite doubling, both the army and the police," Formica told reporters by video link from Kabul.
"It's not been vetted in Washington nor by our coalition partners," said Formica, referring to the larger force size.
The general declined to say precisely if "doubling" the security force was a reference to the initial target for Afghan forces. But US officials have confirmed reports that the administration considered a combined security force of about 400,000, roughly doubling the planned target.
A further expansion of the Afghan security forces will need to be studied more closely by administration officials and US allies, Formica said, saying "that's the work that's got to continue in the weeks ahead."
He said Obama last week had left the door open to further expanding the Afghan army and police.
Formica said US and NATO efforts to have the Afghan army grow to 134,000 by December 2011 were on track.
He also said a French proposal last week to bring in armed European police units to train Afghan forces would be welcome.
"Having police forces like the gendarmerie, and like the (Italian) carabinieri who train here today the Afghan civil order police, having them available in theatre to train police functions like the Afghan national civil order police would be a welcome addition to our training team," he said.
Several EU nations have voiced concerns about the French proposal, saying the role of the gendarmerie would have to clarified in relation to the NATO-led military force and an existing European police training mission.