Afghanistan — Afghan Police Gain Leadership Skills, Public Trust

WASHINGTON, June 28, 2010 — Pay­offs to police have con­tributed to wide­spread cor­rup­tion in Afghanistan, but new efforts to engen­der respect for police and to train police chiefs with lead­er­ship skills could pay off in a more sta­ble and just Afghan soci­ety, a senior offi­cer involved in NATO’s train­ing mis­sion said.

Maj. Gen. Mike Ward of the Cana­di­an army, deputy com­man­der for police on the NATO Train­ing Mis­sion Afghanistan staff, described a case in point dur­ing a June 25 “DoD Live” blog­gers round­table.

“We have a very promis­ing mod­el of the civ­il police and jus­tice pro­gram oper­at­ing down in Kan­da­har right now which is a com­pos­ite of the Cana­di­an civ­il police and the U.S. 97th [Mil­i­tary Police] Bat­tal­ion,” Ward said.

Afghan police offi­cers are walk­ing their beats and engag­ing with shop­keep­ers while part­nered with train­ing men­tors, Ward said. The new breed of offi­cers, he added, aims to earn the con­fi­dence of the pub­lic by not tak­ing kick­backs or engag­ing in cor­rupt prac­tices.

Gain­ing this con­fi­dence is a key to coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy, Ward explained. Any secu­ri­ty force must “move at will, own the night and know your publics.”

Trans­lat­ed to effec­tive polic­ing, he said, that means offi­cers must view it as their duty to “get out with, mix with [and] know the pub­lic.”

Ward cit­ed many efforts under way to break the old chain of police cor­rup­tion in Afghanistan. Those include anti-cor­rup­tion edicts from the top of gov­ern­ment and par­i­ty pay rais­es. At one time, Ward not­ed, “the pay was so low for police­men and army offi­cers that they could only sup­port their fam­i­lies by abus­ing their posi­tion.”

He added that low pay stoked high attri­tion rates, which added to prob­lems in recruit­ing and train­ing suf­fi­cient num­bers of offi­cers.

But mon­ey no longer is the issue, Ward said. Police now earn a liv­ing wage, equip­ment is flow­ing into the coun­try, and the police are receiv­ing bet­ter train­ing and men­tor­ship, both in class­rooms and on patrol, he added.

As a result, he said, reten­tion rates are ris­ing. The attri­tion rate now is less than 1 per­cent per month among the 75,000 uni­formed police, who rep­re­sent some 75 per­cent of the force.

“If you par­al­lel that with some of the per­cent­ages of attri­tion that we see even in West­ern nations, this is a good sta­tis­tic,” Ward not­ed.

How­ev­er, he said the attri­tion rate among the Afghan Nation­al Civ­il Order Police, which has start­ed to drop to about 50 per­cent, con­tin­ues to be an issue of con­cern. Still, he said, trends are mov­ing in the right direc­tion and he’s opti­mistic.

“I am encour­aged by the num­ber of very hon­est police that I deal with and who are out­raged by hav­ing to work with col­leagues who take advan­tage of the sys­tem [that] is not account­able enough yet,” he said, “and these [hon­est police] are the indi­vid­u­als who we would want to pro­mote to posi­tions where their influ­ence or their pow­er can help change the sys­tem for the bet­ter.”

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