WASHINGTON, April 9, 2010 — The importance of developing Afghan police forces is equal to that of raising a strong military there, a senior officer involved in that effort said yesterday.
Canadian army Maj. Gen. Mike Ward, deputy commander of police training for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan provided an update on the Afghan National Civil Order Police during a “DoD Live” bloggers roundtable.
Despite recent successes in Marja and gains in popularity among civilians, Afghan police have much to overcome, Ward said. “Everyone’s aware, I’m sure, of how fragile the Afghan National Police are,” Ward said. “They have the worst reputation for a national institution in the country — the highest level of corruption.”
But that reputation tends to overshadow a lot of positive actions in the police force, he added, especially plans coming down to the police from the Afghan interior minister. “He followed [a broader national police policy] with the first of a series of five one-year plans,” Ward said. “He’s gone on notice to identify where he wants to take the ministry, and what … he expects the police to achieve during that timeframe.”
The NATO training command has implemented strategies in recent months to reduce Afghan-police attrition, improve training and improve leadership and operations effectiveness. By employing measures such as operational deployment cycles, personal asset inventory, pay parity and literacy training — as well as fulfilling partnership commitments with coalition forces — Ward said officials expect to stabilize, reinforce and enable the force. Embedded partnering has been a big part of the training of Afghan police as well as soldiers. Ward said the intent is to create a “warrior bond” in which the trainers provide a good example and the trainees learn to work in sometimes do-or-die situations.
“This notion of getting closer to the Afghans so they can be successful in the battle space is progressing,” Ward said. “It can never happen fast enough, but what the [troops] are learning with their Afghan counterparts … is if the model is successful, the issue of nationality is almost invisible. If you have people who respect each other and are fully committed to the mission, what you get is a positive experience in professional and warrior terms for both sides.” Ward acknowledged that the command suffers from a shortage of trainers to pair with trainees. Afghan army commando units have the most 1-to-1 training pairs and the highest retention and lowest attrition rates, he noted.
Having that same trainer-to-trainee ratio with the Afghan police, Ward said, would bring about a “quantum improvement” in performance, ethics and retention. At least 600 more instructors are required across the 30 or so training centers the NATO training command has established in Afghanistan, Ward said, which now have only about 400 instructors, including contracted police instructors.
Ward said the shortage of instructors is a concern, citing the priorities established by Army Gen. William V. Caldwell IV, who commands NATO Training Mission Afghanistan. “General Caldwell’s commitment is to quality and quantity, in that order, and we don’t want to miss the opportunity to make sure these people are well-trained, and safe, and that the Afghan people are proud of them,” Ward said.
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