French plan for EU armed police in Afghanistan

[] Several EU nations have concerns about a French scheme to send
European armed police into Afghanistan, officials admitted during a
foreign ministers meeting.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner launched the idea at an EU summit last week.

made the case again at two days of talks with his European Union
counterparts at Hluboka castle in the southern Czech Republic, which
were winding up Saturday.

Kouchner himself recognised that
several of his EU colleagues had reservations about the project of
sending armed gendarmes to train Afghan police.

"They are
absolutely right" to so, he said late Friday, stressing that questions
remained about how the proposal would fit into the existing
international efforts in Afghanistan.

"Should it be part of (the European police mission) EUPol or side-by-side? Should it be linked to NATO?"

whole problem is to assure the gendarmes‘ own security, as Kouchner has
said they would be working "on the ground, not in the schools," one
European diplomat said Saturday.

That could involve support from
the international force in Afghanistan run by NATO, while the EU would
see such a force working in coordination with the existing European
EUPol mission to train police, which is expected to number 400 officers
by June, he said.

"There would have to be a mechanism between EU and NATO which would assure the EU’s visibility," he added.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, whose country already has
gendarmes in Afghanistan and which could be asked to contribute to the
mooted force, stressed the project would "complicate" things and that
it was necessary to avoid initiatives that are not properly

His Swedish counterpart Carl Bildt underlined the
difficulty in working out "how to coordinate (the force) with NATO and
the European police mission," while remaining optimistic that a
solution could be found.

Bildt said those problems could be
resolved ahead of a NATO summit on the French-German border on April
3-4, where Afghanistan will be a central topic.