Afghan Police Training Will Take Time, General Says

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2010 — Some of Afghanistan’s biggest threats come – or seem to come – from with­in. To help the coun­try solve inter­nal prob­lems, coali­tion offi­cials are employ­ing lessons from the best nation­al police depart­ments around the world.

Brig. Gen. Carme­lo Bur­gio of the Ital­ian army is in charge of police train­ing for NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan and Com­bined Secu­ri­ty Tran­si­tion Com­mand Afghanistan. Dur­ing a “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table yes­ter­day, he spoke about recent improve­ments in train­ing for the Afghan Nation­al Police, espe­cial­ly in devel­op­ing lead­ers.

This year, Bur­gio said, his orga­ni­za­tion has start­ed cours­es for non­com­mis­sioned and com­mis­sioned offi­cers and has tak­en steps to open the Afghan Nation­al Police Staff Col­lege.

“We devel­oped the first sem­i­nar for police com­man­ders in August, and by the end of Sep­tem­ber, we will start some cours­es for com­pa­ny com­man­ders and staff offi­cers at the bat­tal­ion lev­el,” Bur­gio said. “And by the end of Decem­ber, we will start the first staff cours­es for the Afghan nation­al police.”

Among the cours­es offered to Afghan police are dri­ving cours­es, anti-cor­rup­tion class­es and gen­der-issues sem­i­nars to help in com­bat­ing sex­u­al abuse and inte­grat­ing women who want to serve Afghanistan into the force.

“We were able to devel­op two cycles of sem­i­nars about gen­der issues — domes­tic vio­lence, sex­u­al abuse, women inte­gra­tion in the police — in April and in August,” he said. “And we have a pro­gram to devel­op these cours­es in Decem­ber and in the next year.”

Bur­gio said dif­fer­ent class­es are offered only a few times each year because the focus in train­ing police isn’t to rush a lot of trainees through a class­room, but rather to teach lead­ers how to run a police force as best they can.

“So it means that we are not focus­ing on quan­ti­ty, because we strong­ly believe that qual­i­ty affects quan­ti­ty,” he said. “If you want to achieve a big num­ber of patrol­men, a big num­ber of police­men, we have to pay them bet­ter, we have to train them bet­ter, we have to keep them bet­ter.”

The orig­i­nal approach when the train­ing mis­sion stood up was to update the police train­ing plan that already was in place in Afghanistan, man­aged by a smat­ter­ing of nations work­ing semi-inde­pen­dent­ly, Bur­gio said. The phi­los­o­phy was that every stake­hold­er trained what they liked to train, he added.

“We start­ed to find out what the Afghans need to learn,” Bur­gio said. “And in this coun­try, they are police­men, but they are also the so-called ‘peace tar­get.’ We have to think that for every Afghan Nation­al Army sol­dier killed, we have three or four police­men killed. For this rea­son, we train them as police­men, but we also pro­vide them some spe­cif­ic sur­vival capa­bil­i­ty skills.”

But police aren’t trained as ad hoc sol­diers, the gen­er­al said.

“We don’t want to mil­i­ta­rize the police,” he explained. “We want to make a real­is­tic approach to the train­ing, so the train­ing con­sists of the so-called ‘blue part,’ the police skills, and the ‘green part,’ ” Bur­gio said. “The green part means that we train them how to shoot, how to react to an ambush, how to cre­ate a defen­sive perime­ter, how to defend or how to attack a small posi­tion, how to defend a check­point, etc.”

Bur­gio said what the Afghan police need most is time. More train­ers are com­ing to help, he added, includ­ing Cana­di­an and Jor­dan­ian police and more Cara­binieri from Italy and gen­darmes from France. But the cen­tral ele­ment to any force’s devel­op­ment, he empha­sized, is time for growth.

“I spent some years in Italy as a provin­cial com­man­der in a par­tic­u­lar area in which orga­nized crime is very strong,” he said. “And I always say to my boss­es, to my com­man­der, ‘We need time. We can­not solve this prob­lem in one year.’

“We can­not solve this prob­lem in one month, because the main chal­lenge is the chang­ing of the mind­set,” he con­tin­ued. “Chang­ing the mind­set means work­ing for years.”

“If the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty will be able to push in the same direc­tion for years,” Bur­gio said, “we could achieve some results.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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