No Sons of Afghanistan Need Apply

I had the honor to address this morning Major General Robert Cone, Commanding General for the Combined Security Transition Command- Afghanistan, based in Camp Eggers in Kabul.  The whole Blogger’s Roundtable transcript is here.  I added the links, bolding, and comments in brackets to the transcript below:

On the Afghan police side, I think we’ve made some significant progress in reform. But very candidly, we have a long way to go in terms of reforming the Afghan National Police because, in fact, we started several years later than the army. A major program I talked about last time was a program called Focused District Development that allowed us to really focus our resources on the unit that we think is most important to the Afghan people: local police in the districts. And we began this process of identifying — the first round had about eight districts in it. They were in some of the toughest neighborhoods in Afghanistan, essential to COMISAF’s plan for security for the spring.

We essentially went in and did a unit set fielding, where we took the units — these police units — out of the district, brought them back to our regional training center and backfilled them with our best police, the Afghan National Civil Order Police. And for eight weeks they held the fort, actually showed the Afghan people what real professional policing is about, while the local police, in some cases, were found not to be competent enough to go through training.

And we continued to recruit, but refilled these districts with nationally vetted leaders, with police of some competence, and then took them through eight weeks of training, gave them full equipment, gave them full access to ID cards, the national payment system for police, and then brought them back out and replaced them in the districts.

And right now we’re in the process of assessing their performance.

We leave police mentors on the ground with these folks to make sure that they don’t return, perhaps, to — or they resist the temptations of corruption that perhaps they’ve seen in the past. Reviews are very good on the first eight districts. We have the second group of districts is now currently in training, and we’re in the process of conducting shuras with the local communities of the districts that have been identified for round three.

Overall, we’ll do 52 districts in critical areas this year, and those districts are linked to other parts of the rule of law — for instance, the judicial system, the corrections system — and then we’re also working to link economic development. Once security is established in these districts, they become the face of the government to the Afghan people, security is established, and then all of the other components of reconstruction can begin in thesedistricts.

So we’ve had a lot of support and a lot of partnership with other entities here, to include the minister of — Ministry of Rural Reconstruction, the independent Directorate of Local Governance, all working with us to leverage our program.

With that, I’d like to stop and take your questions.

MR. HOLT: Okay, Doug?

Q Hey, General Cone, this is Doug B. from Civilian Irregular Information Defense Group. Focused District Development in Nimroz province — have we done any of this for that province yet?

GEN. CONE: Technically, Delaram will be — because it’s right on the tip there, on the very top — it’s technically in Delaram. [Delaram is in the extreme northeast corner of Nimroz on the Herat Road] We will be doing that as part of our future efforts. But right now we haven’t gotten a lot into Nimroz simply because ISAF isn’t into Nimroz yet. As ISAF moves in in the future, and I believe there are plans, I think we’ll start to find out what we have in there and get into that area.

Q Okay. Next question: is there anything similar to FDD in the works for the Border Police?

GEN. CONE: Right now there are a couple of initiatives that are working with the border police. I think after — initially, FDD to the Afghans seemed a little bit alien. They sort of believed that they could make these changes incrementally. And part of the problem in the past has been that that hadn’t really worked as well as everybody would like, particularly because of the corruption that’s involved. I think what has happened in the mind’s eye of a lot of people, to include the minister of Interior, is he’s seen the effect of doing this sort of unit set approach, replacing people, basically doing things like drug testing and taking a hard look at this way to field, and I believe the Minister of Interior is interested in doing border police forces in this manner in the future. He’s talked to me about it.

Right now our priority, because of the insurgency, is really local policing. But as more resources become available, we will attempt and broaden this program into Afghan border police.

There are some initiatives ongoing right now in focused border police training. But we believe it’s going to take a fairly comprehensive approach and maybe changing out some of the key players, maybe recruiting nationally, bringing those people in to change what is effectively an area that is very rife for corruption based upon what they do for a living.

And so I think it’s a good fit. It’s just a matter of us getting the resources necessary to do it.

Q Okay, sir, one last question: On the subject of auxiliary police, I understand, they’re supposed to be phased out in October. My question is this: Sir, what is the plan to make use of turned Taliban, who were former bad guys and now they’ve come and seen the light and chieu hoi‘d. We want to make use of them. Is there something in the works to do that?

GEN. CONE: Yes, there is. And in fact, it’s called the — it’s the PTS program. [Program Takhim-e-Solh] And I’m not sure what that acronym stands for, but it basically is an Afghan-led program that reforms former Taliban, basically looks at their individual case.

They come forward. The Afghan government decides what would be the appropriate requirements for them to fully transition, declare their support for the government. And then they are brought back onboard as full citizens in Afghanistan.

That program is under way. It is not significant in terms of the numbers. But there have been numbers, a good number of people, that have been involved in this. The number escapes me right now off the top of my head, but it’s out there.

I think, on the Afghan National Auxiliary Police, Afghanistan has struggled with this problem of warring tribes and warlords; this problem, as you know, going back to the defeat of the Soviets, and then the warlords being present in the country.

The Afghans have a major program called the disarmament of illegally armed groups that works very hard to disarm the tribes and cause them to declare their allegiance to the national government and to rely upon the rule of law in Afghanistan, to solve problems, and not have armed tribes.

The Afghan national auxiliary program about two years ago was an attempt to arm the tribes again in Afghanistan. And what we saw was the effect of paying people essentially to do — to support us when we needed them and stay home. Although it initially had a very positive impact, over time it essentially degraded to really the effect of arming people who not — were not necessarily in alliance with the government. And their corruption became rampant, and that’s the reason that we have disassembled them.

We are now in the process of taking people who are in the Afghan National Auxiliary Police that are truly worthy, that are — that can — that have positive recommendations from their tribes, that have a good record of service, and transitioning them to the Afghan National Police and doing away with the Afghan Auxiliary Police. And I think that is because that is what the Afghans wanted and shows us over time, in a country like this that’s had such a problem with armed groups, what can happen to these sanctioned armed groups.

I perk up when I hear about the ANP. In the winter of 2005 I was involved in screening a squad of ANP who were taking over responsibility for manning three perimeter towers at Kandahar Air Field. Having the ANP guard us while we slept was considered a big deal at the time. These guys had just been issued thick wool uniforms of the damnedest shade of green I’d ever seen. Lots of National Geographic moments for me that week.

If I wanted to smuggle Afghan heroin to Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, Gaza, and Europe the Border Police in Nimroz would be on my payroll.

I have my doubts about betting the Internal Defense and Development farm on recruiting and training a multi-ethnic Royal Afghan Mounted Police loyal to Kabul.  They’ve never had that.  Not sure that the Pashtun tribal lashkars, drug lords and Taliban won’t eat their lunch or turn them once Western Operational Mentoring and Liaison Teams leave.  I wish the Police Mentoring Teams success.   May they prove me wrong.

Richard F. Miller blogged this, too.  See The Moral Side of War: The Rubber Meets the Road in Afghanistan

More posts on the ANP:
Maintiens le Droit
Bitter Masochistic Scab-Picking Cynicism
Abdul Hakim Jan — Cop, Alokozai Arbakai, Militia Chief
Focus District Development
in a counterinsurgency environment the best force to use is generally taken to be indigenous security force
No Boots on Nimroz Ground
The Law West of the Hindu Kush

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7 Comments

Filed under IW, The Forgotten War

7 responses to “No Sons of Afghanistan Need Apply

  1. Thanks. I went over there and left a comment.

    In Iraq in the spring of 2004 we saw convoy battles on the Main Supply Routes reminiscent of the Battle of the Atlantic.

    This spring in Pakistan may see a repeat, only this time we’d have to invade Pakistan to fight the convoys through.

  2. Interesting transcript. I am involved in an EU-funded, UNDP-implemented program to deliver new facilities, equipment and training (my component) to Afghan Border Police in Badakhshan province.

    There are some US plans to do FDD-like training for ABP mobile elements, but it’s largely focused on driving fast and shooting straight, which is all well and good (and to various extents, depending on location, necessary) in Afghanistan! However, our program is focused more on integrated border management procedures, policing functions, surveillance, etc. in addition to the unique “force protection” requirements of the Afghan theatre.

  3. Badakhshan sounds like a pretty adventurous place. The real High Road to China.

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