EU pledges full Afghan police mission by April

BRDO, Slovenia – The European Union expects to have fully deployed a police training mission to Afghanistan by April and could extend it later, the bloc’s special representative to the country said on Thursday.

U.S. officials have in the past been critical of European efforts to train up the Afghan police force, which analysts say is ridden with corruption.

“We hope that by the end of next month there will be full deployment of the EU police force in various parts of Afghanistan,” Francesc Vendrell told a news conference after an EU meeting with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta in Slovenia, which holds the EU presidency.

Spanta urged the EU to increase the size of its police force. “Here I ask the EU once more to increase the number of trainers for Afghanistan’s police,” he said.

Vendrell said the initial mission of 195 police trainers would be fully deployed throughout Afghanistan, adding: “This is the beginning, if we perform well there will be willingness … to enlarge the numbers.”

SPECIAL ENVOY

The EU’s External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said before the meeting she hoped a special U.N. envoy to Afghanistan will be named in the next few months.

Afghanistan’s government in January rejected Britain’s Paddy Ashdown for the post, which is designed to help coordinate the international effort in Afghanistan.

Spanda said: “There was a lot of controversial discussion around nomination of Paddy Ashdown by the media … and from our point of view that was the time to stop this.”

He also said “the name and nationality do not play any role” in nomination of the envoy but declined to make public any name that the Afghan government would accept.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was at first happy with the choice of Ashdown but became uneasy over the extensive political role the former politician and soldier played as U.N. High Representative and EU special envoy to Bosnia, diplomats said.

“There are some names there but it is for the international community and the Afghans to take a decision on that,” Ferrero-Waldner told reporters.

She said a decision was due “rather soon” — hopefully in the first half of this year — but declined to name possible candidates. A major international conference on Afghanistan has been scheduled for Paris in end-June.

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