by Ahmadullah Archiwal, Afghanistan

In response yesterday’s lecture by A. Heather Coyne

The police, besides the judiciary offices, is considered to be one of the most corrupt institutions in Afghanistan. When people in Afghanistan talk about the government they mean police because it is police who impose law and order in the country and are always in close contact with the people. In the post Taliban Afghanistan one of the biggest mistakes that the international community has made was ignoring this important institution of the government. The Afghan government has been lobbying for the creation of a professional Afghan police from the day first but this demand has not been met (Rashid 2008, 204).

President Karzai tried to convince his international supporters for the formation of a strong police force from the very beginning but they did not pay any attention to his demand in the first five years of the intervention (Rashid 2008, 205). Germany initially took the responsibility of training the new Afghan Police in the post Taliban Afghanistan. It sent forty-one officers to train 3,500 new Afghan police officers over three years. But Germany was not willing to provide sufficient funds and personnel for training the Police (Jalali 2003, 176). Later in 2003, the U.S. was forced to train the Afghan police. The contract of training these 3,500 police officers was given to the U.S. private security company DynCorp International. DynCorp International hired officers who did not have any prior knowledge of Afghanistan. There was no plan to train the now 62,000-strong police force in Afghanistan, which was something that the international community had agreed to in the beginning (Jalali 2003, 176).

Furthermore, DynCorp’s training was three weeks, in which they trained police in counter insurgency and not in winning “hearts and minds”. After the training, when the Afghan police returned their homes; they started acting their same old rapacious way. The whole effort of training capable Afghan national police was useless (Jalali 2003, 176).

However, in recent years, due to the support of the international community, Afghanistan has a 70,000 strong police force in place. They cannot meet the challenges and needs of the country yet they are considered an achievement for a new state. Though the main job of police is to implement law and order in the society they unfortunately fall prey to the attacks of insurgents from time and time: as they are not well armed they are easier for the insurgents to hunt down.

As the insurgency starts from rural areas, the international community has come up with an idea of establishing a new kind of police known as the Afghan Local Police (ALP) in areas that are more volatile. According to the plan they should be 10,000 strong and will be getting a monthly salary of 75% of the regular uniformed police. They will be based in their villages and won’t be allowed to go to other villages and constituencies with their arms. Their main job is to fight against the insurgents and not to interfere in local police’s portfolio, which is law and order. The provincial governor, provincial council, and the Ministery of Interior identify selection of the district for deployment of the ALP. All the individuals who will join the Afghan Local Police will have to be recommended by the tribal leaders, who would have to certify their clear backgrounds. After the creation of the local police in all villages of a chosen district they would be uniformed and trained by the Police of the Ministry of Interior and will be commanded by an officer from the Ministry of Interior on the district level. The Afghan Local Police would have to wear a special uniform, be finger printed, and wear a special uniform. Their contract will be for five years and after the termination of their contract they can join Afghan National Army or Afghan National Police or adopt their normal lives. The ALP would be equipped with a Kalashnikov (AK-47) and rocket launchers.  If they need heavy weapons they will refer to their district level in charge who can make a decision of giving them heavy weapons at his discretion.

In theory the creation of the Afghan Local Police seems very beautiful but as Afghans have a bitter history of militias they are concerned about the ability of the Afghan government to control the ALP. They believe that the Afghan government is too weak to control and implement the plan in a proper way and they think that there is a possibility for them to become militias. The Communist government in the late 1980s established ethnic militias to defend itself against the Mujahideen holy ”warrior”. Later on the central government was not abale to control the militias and the militias joined hands with the Mujahideen to help overthrow the central government.

Militias also played very negative role in the Afghan civil war as people think that the ALP will be fighting for the interest of their clans or ethnic groups and not for the central government. The other issue, as many believe, is that it is a parallel structure with the existing police force, which undermines the authority of the Afghan National Police.

However, proponents of the ALP say that insurgency starts from within villages. To them, a local population’s support and loyalty is important and that the Afghan Local Police is a way to garner such loyalty. They see the ALP as an effective force to engage and fight the Taliban on a village level.

Afghan officials seem reluctant. However, General Petraus was able to convince Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, to approve the idea. The ALP has been functional in some districts and are said to be effective in restoration of stability in their areas. Afghan government is concerned about funding this initiative after the international community’s specified fund for this imitative dries up.