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Mindy Belz

Easy targets

Afghan police training goes hand in hand with military buildup

Issue: "Warrior class," Aug. 28, 2010

Outside the KMTC, a stepped-up program is also underway to bolster Afghanistan's National Police, which currently numbers 108,000. To boost those numbers to 134,000 by next year, NATO tapped top European law enforcement teams from Germany and the Netherlands to supervise an "emergency" training program that's been condensed from three years to six months.

"I cannot train police officers in six months to give them a good professional background," said Andreas Ruepp, head of the German Police Program Team that is overseeing the training. In Germany, he said, police officers receive 2½ years academic training followed by a year of practical training before they are sent out on patrol. But his Afghan counterparts say they don't have that much time: "We need officers for every province because we are struggling against higher threats and war," said Farooq Gudbahary, the Afghan brigadier general in charge of training in Kabul. "And we're taking 1,000 casualties a year in our police force."

The national police are "an easy target for the Taliban," said NATO's Brigadier General Carmelo Burgio, "and for every Army guy who's killed, three or four policemen are killed." Burgio, a top commander from Italy's Carabinieri Corps, traveled to Kandahar last month with U.S. commander David Petraeus to highlight the challenges of vamping the police corps. They range from putting manpower on city streets, to fighting illiteracy (at 93 percent among patrolmen), to changing the culture. "These police were organized like a Soviet police force," said Burgio. "They were used to working to defend the government rather than working to defend and protect the people. We have to change that mindset."

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Anti-corruption training is also critical. Said Ruepp, "We take this very carefully in the classroom-showing them that corruption is a criminal act and against the law, so making corrupt police officers criminals; its bad effects on society; and comparing corruption in other countries, so that they see it is a universal problem and takes ongoing vigilance."

For now Ruepp, a 23-year veteran of the German national police force in Bavaria, says fast-track training can work: "At the moment, they need people outside. The quality is not the main issue; they just want to count heads, so basic training will be OK. But we have to bring them back in for more training in the very near future." And the question is, how long will U.S. and NATO resources be around for the follow-on, in-depth training?

Mindy Belz
Mindy Belz

Mindy travels to the far corners of the globe as the editor of WORLD and lives with her family in the mountains of western North Carolina. Follow Mindy on Twitter @mcbelz.

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