In Afghanistan the local police units, largely comprised of the former Northern Alliance, have been, for the most part, utterly incompetent in the carrying out of their duties. In fact, it has been widely reported that the local police units have been responsible for a substantial amount of crime including but not limited to, rape, extortion, assault, and murder. Ben Anderson, investigative reporter for the BBC, noted in his book “No Worse Enemy” that the Afghan police units were responsible for approximately 90 percent of the crime in Afghanistan. In especially difficult places, like Helmand Province, Anderson estimated that the atrocious numbers might have been higher. Most of the local populace in Afghanistan no longer depends on these police units to defend their villages and cities. Instead they have formed their own small militias or depended on the Taliban for protection. In effect the training program then actually ran in conflict to the overall U.S. mission.
Finally, there is Latin America; perhaps one of the more infamous cases of U.S. trained forces pushing the limit. Ironically, much of the same crop of characters that trained forces throughout Latin America was later in Iraq. Colonel James Steele was among them. In the Latin American theatre the consistent theme was “moderate” fighters being churned out of the School of the Americas. While practices at the school may have changed recently it was originally seen as a major destabilization force. Former Panamanian President Jorge Illueca even went as far as calling it the “biggest destabilization force in Latin America.” Among the top hits for the School of the Americas's graduates, according to the 1993 UN Truth Commission, were the assassination of 6 Jesuit priests, consistent slaughtering of peasants, and approximately 800 murdered via death squad in El Salvador. Though in the end “communism” was beaten the benefit was almost next to nothing.
So before General Martin Dempsey proceeds with the training of “moderate” forces he must keep in mind this recent history and not go ahead with the program. The entire premise of training foreign fighters in an effort to turn the tide of a conflict is for the most part a lost cause. Time and time again the practice proves to be a failure. Whether it is Afghanistan, where the U.S. is now holding peace talks with the Taliban, Iraq, which is embroiled in its own civil war, or Latin America, where most of the governments are not exactly fans of the U.S., the practice has failed. It is merely an over-used attempted solution which will never succeed.
Abboud is a student of international affairs at the University of Colorado at Boulder with a focus on the Middle East.