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Afghan President Targets Police Force Following Capital's Deadly Riots


Afghan President Hamid Karzai has announced a major shake up in the national police force following last week's deadly riots in the capital. The move is widely seen as a public bid to restore credibility to a government institution badly damaged by charges of corruption and incompetence.

Afghan government spokesman, Yousef Stanizai, confirmed the dramatic purge of the national police, but dismissed suggestions that the move is a response to last week's violence in Kabul.

"As far as these new appointments are concerned they are not linked with Monday's incident," Stanizai says. "This is a process within the police just to have a professional police, a professional leadership so that we could have better security for the country."

Stanizai said late Saturday the shake-up is aimed at streamlining the police force's senior command - which included more than 360 generals.

President Karzai is replacing 86 senior officials - including Kabul's high profile police chief, General Jamil Jumbish, who was widely criticized for his force's slow response to Monday's anti-American riots.

The riots were sparked when a U.S. military vehicle was involved in a deadly traffic accident.

Police say at least a dozen people were killed and more than 100 injured as protesters swept through the city chanting anti-American and anti-Karzai slogans.

But protesters also expressed anger at Afghanistan's police force - burning their vehicles and accusing officers of corruption and incompetence.

The Kabul-based director of the Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit, Paul Fishstein, says the latest push to reform the police may not be enough to win over an already dissatisfied public.

"I think the statement will definitely be welcomed by the population," he says. "Yes, movement is good, but I also think the population will be very interested in who the appointments are and what their roles will be."

The Afghan National Police was reformed shortly after the U.S. military ousted the Taleban regime in 2001 for harboring terrorists. Since then, about 30,000 police officers have been trained and taken up posts around the country.

But critics say the majority remains under-trained and ill equipped. Many police officers are illiterate and most earn less than $100 a month.

In addition to this week's leadership shake-up, government spokesman Yousef Stanizai says plans are underway to increase wages for the rank and file officers.