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Afghanistan war: Are Afghan forces loyal enough to take control by 2014?

The beheadings of six Afghan police have raised questions about the true loyalties of some Afghan forces during a crash program to recruit and train more locals in the Afghanistan war.

By Staff Writer / July 21, 2010

Members of the Afghan Army take part in a joint patrol with US Army soldiers with the 82nd Airborne Division in Arghandab District, north of Kandahar, July 5. Questions have been raised about the loyalty of Afghan soldiers to take over prosecution of the Afghanistan war by 2014.

Bob Strong/Reuters

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Kabul, Afghanistan

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said Tuesday that his country will be ready to take full control of Afghanistan's security by 2014, but recent attacks on Afghan security forces and problems with continuing literacy and Taliban infiltration in the ranks are showing how tough a task that will prove to be.

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President Obama wants Afghan forces to take the reins – in at least some provinces – here by the middle of next year, and plans are currently being drawn up by the Afghan Defense and Interior Ministries to so.

But the $27 billion effort to train Afghan soldiers and police for most of the past eight years has been judged by outside observers to have churned out soldiers and police forces that aren’t ready to fight on their own. And with June the war's deadliest month for international forces, the fight is very much a hot one.

Signs pointing to lack of commitment

Evidence of that came on Tuesday, as senior diplomats from dozens of countries gathered for the Kabul conference in a show of international donor support for the Karzai government. Also on Tuesday, in Baghlan Province, Taliban fighters overran a police post in a district capital and beheaded six Afghan policemen.

"This incident once again demonstrates the brutal, barbaric, and senseless acts committed by the Taliban," Col. Rafael Torres at the international forces headquarters in Kabul said in a statement. "We remain committed to serving alongside our Afghan partners to improve security and development.”

That sign of commitment is not being reciprocated by all Afghan troops.

In Mazar-e-Sharif, in the north, an Afghan sergeant opened fire on his trainers Tuesday, killing two American contractors and wounding a NATO soldier before being killed himself.

That was the second incident in a week of an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier attacking foreigners he was working with. On June 13, an Afghan soldier attacked the British Royal Gurkha Rifles at a patrol base in Helmand Province, killing two Gurkha enlisted men and a British officer. The soldier made his escape, presumably to join the Taliban.

In a little-reported incident two weeks ago, an Afghan police post in Arghandab District in Kandahar Province, a Taliban stronghold, was overrun after most of the police there deserted. “One of the guys stayed behind and was killed,” says a Kandahar government official, who asked not to be identified. “We’re not sure what happened – if they went over to the Taliban or were just scared.”

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