The United States has decided to change its focus in helping Palestinian Authority security forces.

The administration of President Barack Obama intends to move away from equipping PA security forces. Instead, the State Department, amid increasing criticism from Congress, plans to ensure that the PA reaches self-sufficiency in training and development.

“This year, we will transition the program into the next phase of our campaign plan — building institutional capacity,” U.S. security coordinator Lt. Gen. Michael Moeller said. “This new phase is less resource intensive as we move away from primarily providing the Palestinian security forces with equipment and infrastructure toward an increasingly direct advise and assist role.”

In testimony to the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the MiddleEast and South Asia, Moeller, who heads a 150-member mission in the West Bank, said the United States would seek to sustain the achievements of PA security forces over the last three years. He said Washington would also try to integrate the law enforcement community with an improved judiciary.

“In this phase, we will help the PASF [PA security forces] developindigenous readiness, training, and logistics programs and the capability to maintain/sustain their force structure readiness and infrastructure,” Moeller said on July 12. “Additionally, the USSC will continue to support other U.S. rule of law programs that assist the Palestinians to improve the performance of the justice and corrections sectors.”

Washington, which has drafted a $400 million aid program for 2012, still intended to expand PA security forces. They cited plans to train and equip 10 battalions of the PA’s National Security Forces, deemed the chief paramilitary force in the West Bank.

The U.S. training program has been conducted through the security coordinator’s office as well as the State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Department. So far, 3,700 members of NSF as well as 1,000 Presidential Guards were trained at the U.S.-sponsored International Police Training Center near Amman, Jordan.

The program, which began in 2007, has cost $545 million. In July, Israel approved sending another 500 NSF troops for training in Jordan.

“The USSC and INL reportedly plan to help organize and train a total of approximately 6,000 troops, including 10 500-man NSF battalions — approximately seven of which have already been trained or begun training,” the Congressional Research Service said.

Officials said the main goals of the U.S. program was for the PA to counter the Islamic opposition, particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Another goal was to establish the rule of law in any Palestinian state, which the State Department expects to be formed in 2013.

“The USSC/INL security assistance program exists alongside other assistance and training programs reportedly provided to Palestinian security forces and intelligence organizations by the European Union and various countries, including probable covert U.S.assistance programs,” CRS said in a report titled “U.S. Foreign Aid to the Palestinians.” “By most accounts, the PA forces receiving training have shown increased professionalism and have helped substantially improve law and order and lower the profile of terrorist organizations in West Bank cities.”

Several House subcommittee members have threatened to vote against any U.S. funding to the PA if Hamas was brought into the Ramallah-based government. They said Congress would not participate in any effort to help a Palestinian government influenced by Hamas.

“We can’t be a party to providing dollars to terrorist organizations and to organizations who commit themselves to the destruction of the state of Israel,” Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Republican, said. “I won’t vote for it, and I will work with the chair and others to lead the charge against it, if they continue along this path.”