NATO retools in a key mission: Building an Afghan police force

A female member of the Afghan National Police (ANP) aims a 9mm pistol as she attends a training session in Kandahar city.

From Joby Warrick, the Washington Post:  The alliance is shaking up existing training programs and adding new incentives in an attempt to turn around what has been one of the biggest, most enduring disappointments of the nearly nine-year-old war: the inability to transform the country’s 90,000 police officers into a professional force capable of assuming control of local security.

NATO officials touted the changes in advance of the release of an audit by the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction. The report, released Monday, criticized NATO for overstating the percentage of Afghan security forces — including police and army — that are fully capable of performing their missions. The report also said training efforts suffer from a shortage of trainers and mentors.

"The old system was broken. It just didn’t work," said Marine Col. Gregory T. Breazile, spokesman for NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, which oversees police and army training. While better instruction is yielding a stronger Afghan army, he said, the police units responsible for local security have been until now "just a mess. …"

The makeover, which began late last year, is largely aimed at attracting a higher-caliber recruit and offering incentives to keep him in uniform longer. The inducements include signing bonuses and — a first — literacy classes, a powerful draw in a country where only 20 percent of the adult population can read and write.

A revamped, eight-week training program supervised by foreign paramilitary officers is improving marksmanship and basic military and survival skills. Soon it will be expanded to include veteran officers, NATO officials say. …

Afghan officials see a glimmer of hope in the improved training programs and emphasis on literacy.

Still, they note that the country’s main police academy can handle fewer than 600 recruits at a time, or roughly 3,600 a year. NATO and Afghan officials project that the country will need 134,000 trained police officers on patrol by next summer, when foreign troops are expected to begin leaving the country.  (photo: Getty)

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