CIA starts crash course for Palestinian agents

Monday, June 16, 2003

RAMALLAH The United States plans to launch an accelerated effort to train Palestinian Authority security officers in a bid to wrest control of the multiple security agencies from Yasser Arafat.

PA officials said the CIA will begin training of security officers this week in the West Bank city of Jericho. They said the U.S. intelligence agency has completed arrangements to train security officers from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank in two-week training courses meant to improve their skills in counter-insurgency.

Officials said 300 officers from the Preventive Security Apparatus will be trained over the next few weeks in police and counterterrorism procedures as part of a CIA plan to restructure the PA security forces and remove them from the direct control of PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

The PSA is overseen by PA Security Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan, who has asked the European Union for $400 million to refurbish the PA security forces. Dahlan served as commander of the PSA in the Gaza Strip from 1994 to 2002, Middle East Newsline reported.

"The plan calls for the agency with help from the Jordanians and the Egyptians to provide training to new cadres of Palestinian security personnel," former CIA official Kenneth Pollack told a seminar in Washington earlier this month. "But it also is supposed to bring about a rejiggering of the line and box chart of the Palestinian security services. So you streamline down from the 10 or 11 or however many it has been, down to three and they're very clear lines of authority for those three services that make them no longer the personal purview of Yasser Arafat."

Last week, Arafat appointed Ziyad Habarih as the new commander of the PSA in the West Bank. The agency had been essentially leaderless for about a year in wake of the dismissal of PSA commander Col. Jibril Rajoub.

Zabarih is 40 years old and comes from Jenin. He is regarded as an associate of Rajoub. The PSA refused to recognize Rajoub's immediate successor, Zuheir Manasra.

The United States and the European Union have approved a plan to form a new police force to deal with Islamic unrest. The group has been termed the Central Security Forces and is being trained and equipped by both Arab states as well as U.S. and EU personnel.

PA officials said the new force is part of a plan to reorganize some of the 12 security agencies. They said this could include the drafting of members of Palestinian insurgency groups into the security forces.

"As regards the question of integration, this is an issue that we will discuss when it arises through wisdom and according to our people's interest and political view," PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said last week.

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