According to a story in the New York Times, the PA
security forces are divided, weak, overstaffed, badly
motivated and underarmed. This assessment was the conclusion
of a report prepared by a group called Strategic Assessments
Initiative and was funded the Dutch and Canadian governments.
It was made a part of the mandate given to Lieutenant General
William E. Ward, the U.S. envoy overseeing reforms of the
Palestinian Authority and security issues during the
disengagement, at an international conference in London in
March. An advance copy was made available to the New York
Times by the authors.
The report has been reviewed by senior American and
Palestinian officials, including those in the office of the
Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas. It was not seen by
Israeli officials prior to publication.
The 83-page report, "Palestinian Security Assessment," was
prepared by the Washington-based group which has worked in
difficult places like Kosovo, East Timor and Macedonia.
The study was part of an internationally supported effort to
analyze the current deficiencies of the Palestinian security
forces while suggesting a long-term program for the PA
security services to help guide foreign donors and the
The report also represents an effort to plan Palestinian
security cooperation with Israel before, during and after the
Israeli pullout of its settlers from the Gaza Strip,
scheduled to begin in three weeks. General Ward, who is to
testify on Tuesday before the House Appropriations Committee
in Washington, is the international coordinator for the
security side of the pullout. The US announced that he has
completed his task in the Middle East and will receive a new
According to the Times, the report sees the biggest
risks in the Disengagement from rocket and mortar attacks
carried out by Islamic Jihad or other small, local
undisciplined terror groups that are not participating in
Palestinian politics. They also speculated that there may be
Israeli settler incursions intended "to provoke a violent
Palestinian reaction" and thereby pull in the Israeli Army.
It also noted that continuing violence against Israelis by
lawless Palestinian militants in Gaza could prompt the
Israeli Army to move into Palestinian areas to create a
buffer zone. This could cause fierce clashes, civilian
casualties and would almost certainly result in a collapse of
coordination between the two sides.
In assessing the PA forces, the report says that they were
originally established on "an ad hoc basis without statutory
support and in isolation of wider reforms" — a dry
characterization of the chaotic style of Yasser Arafat and
his preference for duplication and rivalry between the
various organizations so that none could ever threaten him.
The security forces in Gaza are somewhat stronger than those
in the West Bank, but suffer from a continuing lack of
coordination, the report says. "The critical gap is in
command and control," Mr. Jarat Chopra, who heads the group's
Jerusalem office and who teaches international law at Brown
University, told the Times. "There's a blurring between
state actors and non-state actors, and that's very difficult
from the military point of view."
Despite recent changes by Mr. Abbas, centralizing most forces
under Mr. Nasser Youssef the interior minister, things are
still chaotic. For example, former chiefs like Jibril Rajoub
and Mahmoud Dahlan, who have no official authority over the
security forces now, retain powerful influence over them and
play an important security coordination role with Israel. The
current chief of preventive security, Gen. Rashid Abu Shabak,
is considered a Dahlan loyalist with weak ties to Mr.
Youssef, and divisions between the West Bank and Gaza are
Other problems are that there remain unintegrated forces like
General Intelligence, Military Intelligence, Special
Security, Special Forces and the Political Direction
Department; Palestinian family clans still play a strong role
in various security forces; Fatah's own fighters are only
loosely organized; and there are many local strongmen in
individual refugee camps.
Senior Israeli military officials, as well as Israeli
politicians, insist that Mr. Abbas has sufficient manpower
and arms to dismantle the militant groups if he decides to do
so. Israeli officials were interviewed for the report, but
they were not shown the results before publication.
Israel has so far refused requests by General Ward to allow
the Palestinians to import new armored vehicles and fresh
supplies of arms. Presumably, Israeli officials want to see
which way the new guns would be pointed before allowing any
in. So far there have been no indications that they would be
turned against other Palestinian groups, and in fact Abbas
has said that he will not confront Palestinians with arms,
implying that any need for weapons is only against Israel.
The report said that more attention must be paid to building
up institutions rather than personalities. It also says that
Israeli attacks on Palestinian security forces in the spring
of 2002 destroyed much of their infrastructure, and that the
current quality of arms and ammunition is low and
deteriorating. "Meanwhile, non-state factions" like Hamas,
Islamic Jihad and the various fighters of Al Aksa Martyrs
Brigades and local groups like the Tanzim and the Popular
Resistance Committee "are, by contrast, relatively well
armed," according to the report. Ammunition "is in very short
supply, and much of what is available is in poor condition
As significant changes, the report cites an age limit on
service, the appointment of Mr. Youssef, the reorganization
of institutional hierarchies and the firing of some long-
The report says that a credible Palestinian security
structure that can provide internal order is the basis for a
reliable relationship with Israel that could lead to a
The Israeli Army commander for Gaza, Gen. Dan Harel, said the
army wanted to carry out the Disengagement over no more than
three weeks, including nights, but not on Shabbos. Mr. Abbas
announced that he was moving to Gaza for the duration of the
pullout, to try to ensure that it goes smoothly.