By Navy Seaman William Selby
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 7, 2008 - In an effort to bolster the Afghan National Police, U.S. forces in southern Afghanistan recruited and sent a record 500 Afghan citizens to eight weeks of focused district development training, a military official said Aug. 6. "No other regions in the country have recruited nearly that amount during a training cycle," Army Col. John Cuddy, commander of the Regional Police Advisory Command South said during a call with online journalists and bloggers.
Due to the level of insurgent activity, Cuddy said, southern Afghanistan is the main effort in the fight against the enemies of Afghanistan.
"Today I was told by an Afghan general that if Kandahar becomes secure, all of Afghanistan will become secure," Cuddy said.
"What we're doing here in the provinces of Kandahar and Zabul, Helmand and Oruzgan is designed to create a strong, professional Afghan National Police force, ... an impact here in regard to the security of Afghanistan as well as the international community," he said. "We're in the most volatile region in the country, but we're also producing the most trained Afghan Police than any other region."
Cuddy explained that there have been challenges in their region, but U.S. forces have been "innovative and assertive" in meeting those challenges.
"For example, our efforts to train the Afghan National Police at the regional training center here in Kandahar is limited to only 350 training seats a cycle," he added. "In order to train more than the 350 allowed this cycle, we coordinated to send police to attend training at other Afghan regional training centers."
Cuddy stressed that much planning and coordination is needed between coalition forces, civilian contractors, government agencies, and the Afghan National Police in order for the police forces to train in different regions.
"Adding an additional 150 focused district development-trained Afghan National Police to the community is well worth the extra effort," Cuddy said.
The professionalism displayed by the Afghan instructors, Department of Defense civilian contractors, and military trainers is providing a solid, well-balanced program of instruction for these recruits, Cuddy said.
"As the focused district development program is aging, we're creating a better training program with each iteration, with police officers that graduate," Cuddy added. "We're honing their skills, and their understanding of what it means to be a police officer in this fight."
While the training has become more successful with each class, some adjustments have been made to turn around the deficiency in leadership. Noncommissioned officer corps and officer corps training has been added, he said.
Now, all officers and NCOs go through training together to build a bond, Cuddy said. In addition to the initial training, leadership development courses go on with the police mentor teams as well as advanced courses including marksmanship.
"Some of the marksmanship practices of the past were ... 'point and shoot,' ... usually 'spray and pray' kind of stuff," Cuddy said. "So we're trying to teach them that controlled marksmanship here at the [focused district development] cycle training."
Although there's still a great deal of work to be done and a lot more recruiting to be done, Cuddy seems to be encouraged by the effort of the Afghans.
"There's people looking to stand up for their country, to contribute to the security of their country, and to do better for themselves and their lives," he said.
(Navy Seaman William Selby works for the New Media directorate of the Defense Media Activity.)