By Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio
Special to American Forces Press Service
May 22, 2008 - The Afghan troops stood at attention, moving only to cheer, as Afghan Interior Minister Ahmad Moqbel Zarar confirmed their status May 19 as noncommissioned officers of the Afghan National Police. The 1,688 NCOs, the largest group yet, joined the ranks after nearly five months of training at the ANP Academy.
The Afghan National Police, a force of more than 79,000, has grown to 97 percent of its authorized end strength, despite daily reports of deadly clashes with enemy forces.
"Now, security can be provided everywhere, and the police have the capability of doing this," said Col. Nezamudeen Tabish, ANP Academy representative. "The police force has influenced the local people, and youth are joining the ANP."
Tabish is a 20-year member of the force. He has seen many changes in the police force in his tenure and said he has high hopes for the future.
"I am proud to be an instructor of these young people who will serve and defend this country," he said. "I am happy that from our struggles comes this force which is getting better and can defend this country independently."
Entry-level training for the Afghan National Police consists of an eight-week program in general police duties, weapons proficiency, first aid, human rights training, community policing, basic border police training, and Afghan law and culture.
This group of NCOs received the next level of training on law, police tactics and operations, management and criminology.
Although the course is completely Afghan-led, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Robert Cone, commander of Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan, attended the ceremony to congratulate the NCOs and let them know his command is standing with them.
"As noncommissioned officers, you are responsible to lead and train the patrolmen who work and fight under your leadership," Cone said. "The effectiveness of your patrolmen and the operations they carry out is the first step in laying the foundation of security."
Zarar praised the new NCOs. "You are the face of the rule of law, and all Afghans are proud of your courage," he said.
"Previously, we were graduating NCOs who were illiterate. Now, we recruit high school graduates to the police force," Zarar said. "These NCOs are the base and the foundation of the professional police in Afghanistan."
Abdul Karim, a 20-year-old Kandahar native, exemplified the minister's words.
Karim graduated from high school and immediately enrolled in the police academy. He will travel back to Kandahar to practice what he has learned, the first in his family to serve in the national police.
"I want to serve my people of Afghanistan and my country," he repeated over and over.
The oath of the Afghan National Police is similar to many NCO creeds: to be a disciplined officer, loyal to the law, rules and regulations. In the coming months, these new NCOs will travel to different parts of Afghanistan to live up to their oath, officials said.
(Air Force Staff Sgt. Beth Del Vecchio serves in the Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan Public Affairs Office.)