By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
April 16, 2008 - The Afghan National Army is growing, and the police force is nearly through its rank and pay reforms, helping eventually to put in place competent, professional security forces across the country, a senior commander there said today. "Once the people realize what a professional, noncorrupt, police force looks like, they want some of that," said Army Brig. Gen. Andrew Twomey, deputy commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, based at Camp Eggers in Kabul.
His organization's mission is to train, advise and develop the Afghan security forces, both police and army.
The agency's first challenge was that, historically, the Afghan people do not have experience with a competent, professional police force, Twomey said. Before, there were armed militias, tribal groups, or during the Soviet occupation, an arm of an occupying force oppressing the people, he said.
"The whole concept of how people think policemen should behave is warped by those decades," Twomey said.
After the defeat of the Taliban, a large number of people were brought into the police simply by the Afghan government converting the militias.
"[They] were essentially told, 'You are no longer a militia any more. Here's a police uniform. Here's a weapon. You're now a policeman," Twomey said. "That program did provide some local security, but it did not give them the same sort of ethics and norms and professional behavior that we would want out of a police force."
Also, the general said, a long history and culture of police corruption had to be addressed in the system. The policemen were underpaid, and the structure of the force was not well disciplined.
"There was left over an acceptance of the fact that policemen were supposed to ... get money from individuals. So that led to policemen setting up illegal roadblocks, taxing individuals for passage," Twomey said.
He said that although there were once 75,000 policemen on the books, they were neither reliable nor trustworthy.
The first step was to reform the pay system, followed by rank reform that matched both the police force and army. In many instances, because of an over-inflated rank system, some would be reduced in rank, but raised in pay. Once the forces start getting paid a livable wage, about $100 monthly for patrolmen, then standards can be enforced, Twomey said.
"Now you're getting paid a living wage. Now we're going to hold you to a standard. And we're not going to tolerate corrupt behavior," Twomey said.
In many districts, the policemen weren't trained, wrong leadership was in place, and there were no standards or discipline, Twomey said. To remedy the need for districtwide training, Twomey's group began building and training police units -- almost a paramilitary organization -- called the Afghan National Civil Order Police. These battalion-sized organizations are given extra training, extra pay and embedded U.S. forces as supervisors.
With that core of top-notch forces, officials are now going to every district in the country and replacing their local forces temporarily to train them.
It's a program called "focused district development," where all local police are removed from a district and taken for eight weeks of training. They are then reinserted in the district with a police mentor team. Each of the police districts in Afghanistan was assessed and prioritized. It will take about five years to train the more than 350 districts.
"The first reaction was 'Don't do this. We're afraid of these new people," Twomey said. "Then about two weeks later we started getting phone calls from the leadership saying, 'We don't want our old police back. ... We like these new guys.'
"We're now into the second cycle, and we think it's getting a lot of good traction in the public and well as good results on the ground," he said.
In the army, Twomey said, Afghan units are increasingly taking the lead and are capable of combat. Plans are to build the army to 80,000, or 14 brigades and a commando brigade. This month, Afghanistan has just fewer than 60,000 soldiers in the force. They will have 70,000 trained by early fall, and plan to have a full complement of 80,000 soldiers by the summer of 2009, Twomey said.
Within the army's ranks, leaders are starting to see a noncommissioned officer corps take shape, he said. They have built the military education system to including basic training and NCO development schools. Commissioned officers have a candidate school and a four-year military academy that will graduate its first class this winter, Twomey said.
Twomey was quick to point out that his organization is not built around a training center, but rather that its trainers are out advising the Afghan army as they go into conflict. He said his agency also has helps to develop organizational systems at the ministries of Defense and Interior to sustain the force into the future.
Twomey's command now is receiving about 1,000 additional U.S. Marines to help with police training in the south and west of Afghanistan.
"They will provide a tremendous boost to our police training efforts, and we think they'll set the conditions for developing governance in a very critical part of the country," Twomey said.