French plan for EU armed police in Afghanistan
Several EU nations have concerns about a French scheme to send European armed police into Afghanistan, officials admitted during a foreign ministers meeting.
HLUBOKA NAD VLTAVOU - French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner launched the idea at an EU summit last week.
He made the case again at two days of talks with his European Union counterparts at Hluboka castle in the southern Czech Republic, which were winding up Saturday.
Kouchner himself recognised that several of his EU colleagues had reservations about the project of sending armed gendarmes to train Afghan police.
"They are absolutely right" to so, he said late Friday, stressing that questions remained about how the proposal would fit into the existing international efforts in Afghanistan.
"Should it be part of (the European police mission) EUPol or side-by-side? Should it be linked to NATO?"
The whole problem is to assure the gendarmes' own security, as Kouchner has said they would be working "on the ground, not in the schools," one European diplomat said Saturday.
That could involve support from the international force in Afghanistan run by NATO, while the EU would see such a force working in coordination with the existing European EUPol mission to train police, which is expected to number 400 officers by June, he said.
"There would have to be a mechanism between EU and NATO which would assure the EU's visibility," he added.
But Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, whose country already has gendarmes in Afghanistan and which could be asked to contribute to the mooted force, stressed the project would "complicate" things and that it was necessary to avoid initiatives that are not properly "coordinated".
His Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt underlined the difficulty in working out "how to coordinate (the force) with NATO and the European police mission," while remaining optimistic that a solution could be found.
Bildt said those problems could be resolved ahead of a NATO summit on the French-German border on April 3-4, where Afghanistan will be a central topic.