REPORTING FROM KABUL, AFGHANISTAN -- A U.S. military investigation has documented abuses committed by American-backed village police forces, dealing a blow to hopes that these local forces would become a crucial bulwark against the insurgency amid a draw-down by Western troops.
Serious abuses by the Afghan local police, known as the ALP, were alleged in a report earlier this year by New York-based Human Rights Watch, prompting the U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. John Allen, to order an investigation.
Military investigators declared the village forces an effective means of countering the Taliban and other insurgent groups, due in large part to their knowledge of local conditions and personalities.
But they acknowledged that human rights violations had taken place, and called for moves to stem abuses. Those steps included closer coordination with watchdog groups and the Afghan government, according to an executive summary of the report made public late Thursday.
The full findings are to be released later.
The local police program has been controversial from the start. Many Afghans harbor a deep-seated fear of militia groups, finding them reminiscent of the heavily armed factions that fought a brutal civil war in the early 1990s, paving the way for the rise of the Taliban movement.
Training of the village forces by U.S. special operations troops is a centerpiece of a larger strategy of handing over security responsibilities to the Afghan police and army as the NATO force aims to wind down its combat mission by 2014.
The American military inquiry, a six-week effort involving hundreds of interviews, contested some of the Human Rights Watch findings. The group had alleged that members of the village forces were engaging in offenses including kidnapping, rape and murder.
The nascent village forces, now operating in dozens of districts across Afghanistan, number about 10,000 personnel. That force is to triple in size by the end of 2013.