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US envoy applauds Afghan police clear-out

Written by: Staff
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KABUL, June 5 (Reuters) A week after the worst riots in Kabul since the fall of the Taliban, the US ambassador to Afghanistan praised the replacement of senior police officials, while a UN envoy called for rapid reform of the force.

For many Afghans, corrupt officials, often linked with factional commanders who helped fight the Taliban, represent an even greater threat to their security than a Taliban insurgency that is going through its bloodiest period in four years.

''The (new) police list, I think, will remove a number of officials who ought to be removed,'' US ambassador Ronald E Neumann told journalists today.

Neumann said fostering a strong government would depend on breaking down political, factional, tribal and ethnic structures that undermine the Afghan state, and the changes in the police would be a step toward reducing those power structures.

A night-time curfew imposed after the riots on May 29 was lifted yesterday, but Afghan troops ordered onto the streets of the capital after the police's failure to maintain order were still deployed around the city.

President Hamid Karzai's government announced at the weekend that more than 80 precinct and departmental heads of the police had been replaced, including Kabul's police chief.

The clear-out had been planned in advance, although officials said privately the timing was brought forward after the ineptitude shown during the disturbances, when some police were even seen taking off their uniforms and joining the rioters.

Neumann said the new officers had been appointed based on written and oral examinations conducted by German, US and Afghan law enforcement officials. Germany has been in charge of rebuilding Afghan police capacity after the Taliban's removal.

But the government remains dogged by corruption, and the Interior Ministry has a particularly poor reputation, as have several provincial governors, analysts say.

MORE REUTERS SRS PM2046

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