EU eyes gendarme force for Afghan police training
The European Gendarmerie Force has accepted a proposal by Paris for the police force to conduct training in war-torn Afghanistan.Brussels -- Six European Union nations agreed Thursday to allow their joint paramilitary police team to be used to help bolster Afghanistan's police force, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.
He said that nations in the European Gendarmerie Force -- France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania and Spain -- had accepted a proposal by Paris for the police to conduct training, and that Turkey could also take part.
"The countries in this group, the European countries, have accepted," he said at an EU summit in Brussels. "The Turks are also in the group, although not yet totally, but we are going to try to come up with a common proposal."
This proposal would have to be accepted by their EU partners.
The United States is about to complete a review of its strategy to combat the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, and it wants its European allies to do more in the "rule of law" area if they cannot provide more troops.
The EU agreed in May 2008 to double the size of its EUPOL police mission in Afghanistan, to some 400 personnel from around 200 police, law enforcement and justice experts initially.
The aim of the mission, led by Germany, is to help build the Afghan police force, as well as mentor and advise interior ministry officials but the operation has been criticised notably by NATO members and the United States.
US officials said last year that thousands of instructors would be needed.
"I think there is a very important role for the European Union" within the new US strategy, said British Foreign Secretary David Miliband. "We all understand that without secure and effective police forces to back up the military effort, there's not going to be stability in Afghanistan. There are some interesting ideas being put forward by the French and others about how the policing mission can be reinforced and dovetail with the NATO efforts."
The European Commission is also sending a team to Afghanistan next month to assess whether security is ripe for an observer mission to be sent there to monitor elections in August.
The EU also expects to provide substantial funding for the polls.