The Central Intelligence Agency has begun training Palestinian Authority security personnel in the West Bank in police techniques.

The rationale for this mission is to support “moderate” forces in their efforts to control “extremist” forces – such as Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, terrorist groups that rejoice in killing innocent Israeli citizens and anyone else who happens to get in their way.

But, I have a question about this program.

Let’s say you wanted to train a police force in inner-city Washington, D.C., or Los Angeles. Who would you call? Would you call in the CIA? Or would you call in police professionals?

While the CIA specializes in assassinations and covert operations, I’ve never known it to have much expertise on policing communities.

This is one reason I am suspect of this program – just one reason.

Right now, the CIA is training 154 security officers in Ramallah and 170 in Jericho. The security personnel are part of Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas’ Preventive Security Service. Abbas is the new darling of the West – supposedly a “moderate” leader who is battling Yasser Arafat for the hearts and minds of the stateless Arabs in the region.

I have a bad feeling about this. Is the CIA equipping these men with arms? What kind of techniques are they teaching? How will these newly trained forces be used?

I have no problems with destroying Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade. Don’t get me wrong. In fact, if that is the goal of this operation, let me emphatically say I support the goal. But Hamas’ strength is not in these territories. It is in Gaza. And the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, it must be repeated over and over again, is an offshoot of Fatah, the faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization founded by Arafat and the home of Abbas.

Why do I severely doubt these new forces will target an organization funded and directed by Arafat himself? That’s a rhetorical question.

If the goal is the destruction of Hamas, the forces being trained are too small and located in the wrong communities. And we ought to be open and honest about the objectives. Destroying Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade is a legitimate and worthy goal. Why not be honest about it? Why should we say we are training police forces when, in fact, we are training little militias?

What guarantees do we have that these new militias will not eventually be used in battles with Israelis? It’s happened before. In fact, while Arafat and Abbas poor-mouth about not having sufficient firepower to control their territories, the truth of the matter is they have more armed security personnel than many metropolitan areas with far bigger populations.

Arafat has never skimped on buying arms for his security forces. The security forces are not his police force, they are his army. They represent one of his biggest bargaining chips. He may have trouble paying them, but he has no trouble arming them. Right after filling his own foreign bank accounts with cash, this is Arafat’s No. 1 priority.

So, once again, I ask the questions: Why is the CIA training Palestinian Authority security personnel? What are they teaching them? What limitations are placed on these newly trained soldier-policemen? How will we ensure they don’t become part of the problem? How will we ensure they will not help the terrorists rather than fight them?

For years we’ve witnessed shoot-outs between PA security forces and Israeli police and troops. How is peace fostered by training more bad guys? And if this is a legitimate police mission, why is the CIA uniquely qualified to carry it out?

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