By Kristen Noel
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 11, 2008 - Coalition trainers and mentors are making progress turning around corrupt police forces in southern Afghanistan, a military official said. Afghan National Police forces have an "awful reputation" in many communities for practices such as shaking people down and selling weapons to criminal, Army Col. John Cuddy, commander of Regional Police Advisory Command South, told online journalists and bloggers in a teleconference July 9.
"We're trying to teach them [and] show them what's best for their country and the people of Afghanistan," Cuddy said. "What's best for them doesn't involve corruption on a daily basis," he added.
Cuddy, who has been in Afghanistan for three months, oversees all U.S. military transition teams in the southern region of the country. The main concentration now, he said, is the focused district development program to train, mentor and equip Afghan National Police forces.
"This program is being executed across the country," he said, "but for us in the south, I think it's a larger undertaking."
The training aspect of the focused district development program, Cuddy explained, removes Afghan police forces from their district for eight weeks of instruction at the regional police training center in the city of Kandahar. The district police are replaced during the eight-week period by the Afghan Civil Order Police, "who are a highly trained, effective police force," he said.
Cuddy said local populations tend to welcome the substitution of the Afghan Civil Order Police, due to district police forces' reputation for corruption. "Anecdotally, we have heard that the local population says. 'We love the ANCOP; don't take them away,' you know. These are the good police."
However, Cuddy said, his teams are getting positive feedback from the local citizens when the district police return to their communities after the eight-week training cycle. "We're getting feedback that, 'Hey, this is really working. They're more professional. They're not stealing from us. They're not shaking us down on the road,'" the colonel said.
So far, almost 800 Afghan police in the southern region have completed the focused district development training, Cuddy said.
"The police are learning a lot of human-rights training [and] ethical training," he explained, "and for the first time, some of these guys are getting what it is to be a police officer -- what it is to serve and protect. We're seeing the Afghans come to the police with their concerns more, providing tips of where the Taliban are, [and] where their weapons caches are."
Acceptance by the local citizens is crucial to winning the counterinsurgency in southern Afghanistan, Cuddy said, because the fight truly is to win over the population.
"The people are the front line of this battle," Cuddy explained. "If we can get them to trust in the government and trust in the police, I think we'll come a long way in winning this counterinsurgency."
(Kristen Noel works for the New Media branch of the Defense Media Agency.)