Abbas authorizes creation of new U.S.-backed security force

Sunday, July 20, 2003

RAMALLAH The Palestinian Authority has launched efforts to create a new counter-insurgency force.

Palestinian sources said PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas has approved a plan to form a new agency that would fight insurgency groups in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The sources said Abbas has authorized Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan to organize the agency, which would be under his control.

The new agency is meant to ensure that PA forces can track and combat a range of Palestinian insurgency groups without interference from PA Chairman Yasser Arafat. Arafat has control of the lion's share of Palestinian security forces and maintains links with such groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, Middle East Newsline reported.

The sources said the new agency is envisioned to contain 2,000 security officers. They said the force would be under Interior Ministry control and supersede other agencies in investigations that focus on internal security.

Dahlan's agency is being formed with help of the United States, the sources said. They said the new organization would draw from officers from the Preventive Security Apparatus and General Intelligence in the Gaza Strip.

In the first phase, the sources said, the agency would operate in the Gaza Strip. But the new group would also have authority in the West Bank and take over much of the authority from the moribund Preventive Security.

A key problem for the proposed agency, the sources said, is the lack of sufficient manpower willing to accept the unpopular task of quelling insurgency movements. They said the PA has proposed recruiting from Fatah combatants in Lebanon. Israel has objected to the idea.

Egypt and Jordan are also expected to help train and equip any new PA security force. On Thursday, PA and Jordanian officials discussed security training during a meeting in Amman. The meeting was held within the framework of security cooperation between the two entities.

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