Afghanistan — Leadership Training Central to Police Mission in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON — Six months isn’t a lot of time to get an oper­a­tion up and run­ning, but NATO forces in Afghanistan have made amaz­ing strides in train­ing the Afghan Nation­al Police in that time, a senior offi­cer involved in that effort said today.

Cana­di­an Army Maj. Gen. Mike Ward, deputy com­man­der-Police, NATO Train­ing Mis­sion-Afghanistan, dis­cussed the progress of the Afghan Nation­al Police since the stand-up of NTM-A with blog­gers on a DoDLive Blog­gers Round­table.

There are many chal­lenges, Ward said, includ­ing lead­er­ship devel­op­ment, lit­er­a­cy issues, cor­rup­tion and attri­tion, but there also are “balls rolling in the right direc­tion.” “We’re begin­ning to see some changes … that will vast­ly increase the amount of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment that will take place, and that will increase the num­ber of young patrol­men who will be recruit­ed, trained, and assigned to the var­i­ous dis­tricts around the coun­try,” he said.

That, along with the estab­lish­ment of recruit­ing and train­ing com­mands in the Afghan Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or, will mature the min­istry and allow it to take over more of the nuts-and-bolts oper­a­tions to man­age the police force, Ward said.

“They’ve had an Afghan Nation­al Police Acad­e­my estab­lished for the last 75 years, and they part­nered ear­ly with police forces from Ger­many … to devel­op that first lev­el of ini­tial lead­er­ship, from an offi­cer can­di­date school per­spec­tive to the first com­mis­sioned assign­ment,” Ward said. “That’s the good news.”

He explained that there hasn’t been any kind of police staff col­lege in the coun­try for 40 years. Beyond the ini­tial train­ing in the acad­e­my, there is lit­tle to no lead­er­ship train­ing for offi­cers, and expe­ri­en­tial devel­op­ment through­out an officer’s career could vary dras­ti­cal­ly from offi­cer to offi­cer.

A viable solu­tion, Ward said, would be cre­at­ing train­ing pro­grams at var­i­ous com­mand qual­i­fi­ca­tion points. For exam­ple, an offi­cer would need to attend a school before tak­ing a posi­tion as chief of police for a city, province or dis­trict.

Pro­duc­ing Afghan police super­vi­sors that under­stand their mis­sions and know how to lead and com­pre­hend upper-lev­el law enforce­ment and man­age­ment tech­niques, Ward said, is crit­i­cal to Afghan secu­ri­ty and tran­si­tion­ing con­trol from NATO to the Min­istry of the Inte­ri­or.

“This year, we’ve sat down with the min­istry and with the Euro­pean Union Police and we’ve begun to design a nation­al police staff col­lege that rein­tro­duces key ele­ments of core pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment beyond the junior offi­cer lev­el,” he said. “That, more than any­thing else, is going to trans­form the insti­tu­tion of the police.”

Ward said there is a sim­i­lar prob­lem among non-com­mis­sioned offi­cers in the police force. Efforts are under­way, he said, to iden­ti­fy top-per­form­ing NCOs in the Afghan police, and rec­om­mend they under­go train­ing to become offi­cers.

“This is very much based on many West­ern mod­els,” he said. “Rarely do you have offi­cers start­ing at the mid­dle grades. It’s how we do it in Cana­da, too. Every­body starts as a con­sta­ble. Nobody starts in the mid­dle grades.”

Ward said the most-impor­tant ele­ment of police train­ing in Afghanistan is mak­ing sure the Afghans have the oppor­tu­ni­ty to expand and show their abil­i­ty to pro­vide for their own secu­ri­ty and devel­op into a ful­ly func­tion­ing inde­pen­dent force.

“I’m sens­ing that we do now have a pri­or­i­ty placed on the police that will gen­er­ate bet­ter out­comes in the near term,” he said. “The issue is mak­ing sure we can give them space to learn and space to demon­strate that they under­stand how they will pros­e­cute police oper­a­tions here. They’re doing bet­ter and bet­ter, and there’s cause for opti­mism.”

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