Maj. Gen. Mike Ward, deputy commander-police, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan met with the DoD Bloggers Roundtable to discuss the progress within the Afghan National Police (ANP) force that may be the most critical link to success in the war in their country. With no police staff college for approximately 40 years for the ANP, the NATO allies recognized a need to develop mid level leadership. Many of the police force issues such as retention, recruitment, pay and equipment have been addressed with varying success rates. The training offered by NATO should create a more professional force that creates a positive public image and respect from the Afghan citizens.
Previously, many of the ANPs problems could be directly attributed to low pay and a system of corruption that required low ranking officials to collect “pay” for protection and other graft. With higher officials collecting as well it became a pay to play or pyramid type of job and lost the respect of many of its citizens. In addition, that mind set creates an environment that allows guerrilla warfare to spread with little respect for the police by citizens and little “honor” among the police force. Both lead to disloyalty to police and support for guerrillas seen as the more “moral” force. The General said that honor is a large piece of the Afghan culture and it must be addressed in the next steps of training leaders.
Police funding, a “living wage”, new equipment and support from NATO are not enough according to the general. The intellectual and moral arenas have become the next target of training efforts. I asked if he had an unlimited budget how would he address the issues and he said more trainers from professional police forces to match up with ANP units. He said they have recently seen some great success near Kandahar with US Army MP units training and fighting together with the ANP. In addition, an attack within Kabul by insurgents in January was met with heroic efforts by the responding ANP forces to save civilian lives. This success shows a growing appreciation for what honor means to a police force!
When compared to a military unit, police often must operate as individuals or very small units and the unit identity and cohesion may not be the same. Add in the remote and limited transportation capabilities of Afghanistan, the police unit headquarters could be some distance in miles or travel time. One of the best measurements of success and cohesion within the police force is retention and the numbers are starting to tell the story! Retention and recruitment are all moving in the right direction and the retention of skilled police officers in some organizations are exceeding US Army numbers!
Major General Ward is a talented speaker and extremely knowledgeable Canadian officer with a unique perspective due to his background commanding Canadian military training units. I think you would really enjoy listening to his comments on the audio feed at DoDLive. You can also find a transcript of the questions and answers there as well! If you would like to see further articles/information on the war in Afghanistan go to the MilitaryAvenue Reading Room and/or Our Letters to You/Afghanistan blog!
Photo Credit: An Afghan National Police officer communicates with his counterparts during a patrol with a platoon of U.S. Soldiers near the village of Sheshquala, Logar province, Afghanistan, June 16, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Russell Gilchrest/Released)
*Listening to Maj General Ward, I thought of a song that I enjoyed by Sarah Brightman on her Harem album/concert. "A Question of Honor" was composed by Frank Peterson and speaks of honor which we discussed during the roundtable.