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After decision to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan, what happens next?

President Obama announced this week that 10,000 U.S. troops will remain deployed for another year in Afghanistan to help quell the resurgent Taliban and keep training the country's police force. Austin Long, a professor of international and public affairs at Columbia University, joins Hari Sreenivasan to discuss.

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    President Obama announced this week that American troops will not fully withdraw from Afghanistan, as he had planned, by the end of his presidency. Instead, 10,000 U.S. troops will remain deployed for another year to help Afghanistan quell the resurgent Taliban and also to keep training Afghanistan's police force to expand and stand on its own.

    Joining me in the studio to discuss this is Austin Long, a professor of international and public affairs focusing on security policy at Columbia University here in New York.

    So, we spoke a couple of days ago on the broadcast about the military decision and assistance to the Afghan military, but the police force has also been part of the strategy. Where is that? And was that a success or a failure over the last several years?


    So the Afghan police force is just one component of the Afghan security forces. There's also an army. There's also an intelligence service. The police have more or less been the lagging security force. They've been the least developed over time, and so they've been an integral part of security in Afghanistan, but they haven't been highly effective


    So, some of the areas, especially in rural Afghanistan, have a pretty tense relationship with any authority, whether it's the Afghan government, whether it's the U.S. government or the Taliban, right?


    So, that's absolutely right. And one of the big answers to this in theory was to create local police force. So, there's an Afghan national police force that covers the entire country at the federal level.

    Beginning in 2009, the United States began pressing a plan to build local police forces that would operate more or less at the village or district level, very local forces that would in theory have a big incentive to defend their home territory and wouldn't be expected to go fight anywhere else in Afghanistan


    So, why didn't that work?


    Well, there are several reasons why this program has been a problem. The first is the Afghan government was initially very reluctant to do it. President Karzai saw these forces as essentially resuscitated militia, and "militia" is a dirty word in Afghanistan after the 1980s and 1990s. So, that was one reason.

    A bigger reason, I think, is once the Afghan government bought off in 2010 and this became a formal part of the Afghan police, called the Afghan local police, there was a big push to expand this program very quickly. These units were seen as the key to providing security in these remote villages which, as you say, may have a very tense relationship with the government.

    The problem was in the push to rapidly expand this program in 2011 and 2012, I would argue it grew too quickly. You didn't have sufficient vetting of the individuals to make sure they weren't going to commit the kind of abuses that President Karzai was worried about. In some cases, you had local police or individuals that claimed to be local police that were not from the local area.

    They essentially come in from the outside. So, there were a lot of issues, I'd say, over the period 2011 to '12 and '13 on this.


    So, what happens next? Along side the U.S. forces that remain on the ground, did they play a role in training of training the Afghan police as well?


    I think it would be very difficult for these kind of local programs for the U.S. servicemen to participate just because they tend to be very far from the bases that the U.S. is at now. So, in 2010, the U.S. had small bases scattered throughout the country, in addition to very large bases.

    Now, we've more or less come down to the big bases and so, it's difficult to get out and do training in these remote villages.

    So, I think this will be a very Afghan-led program


    All right. Austin Long from Columbia University, thanks so much for joining us.


    Thanks very much for having me.

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