By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
March 11, 2009 - An effective, honest police force is vital to security progress in Afghanistan, but a shortage of instructors hampers the training process, according to a Government Accountability Office report. The report, released March 9, said Afghan police are making significant progress, but more could be done, and faster, with additional personnel.
The report looked at police retraining efforts, the restructuring process, the screening process for Afghan personnel and the Afghan pay system.
The United States has spent more than $6.2 billion on the training and organization of the Afghan Interior Ministry and Afghan National Police. The Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan and State Department share responsibility for the effort.
The transition command has begun retraining ANP units under the "focused district development" program. Under the program, police leave their district and are trained and equipped as a group. While they are at the training center, the Afghan National Civil Order Police take their place.
The program is designed to remedy training shortfalls in the ANP and to address district-level corruption that is crippling district security.
Last month, the Defense Department judged that 19 percent of the retrained units were capable of conducting missions, 25 percent were capable of doing so with outside support, 31 percent were capable of partially performing the mission even with outside support, and 25 percent as not capable.
"A lack of military personnel is constraining [the command's] plans to expand [the program] and similar programs into the rest of Afghanistan by the end of 2010," the report said.
The focused district development program effort is short about 1,500 military trainers, Defense Department officials said. The transition command has had to "rob Peter to pay Paul" to obtain military personnel for police training. Officials shifted personnel from the ANA training program to the police effort.
"However, the army program's demand for personnel is likely to increase as the Afghan army grows from 80,000 to 134,000 personnel," the report said.
Afghan and U.S. agencies have restructured and reduced a top-heavy and oversized Interior Ministry and ANP officer corps. They also have cooperated to modify police wages and to plan an Interior Ministry headquarters reorganization.
"These efforts are intended to help ensure that the [Interior Ministry] and ANP are directed by professional staff that can manage a national police force," the report said.
The ANP officer corps has been cut from 17,800 to about 9,000. The effort also has reduced the percentage of high-ranking officers and increased pay for all ranks.
The report also addressed the screening process for the Afghan police.
"The screening effort was intended to improve the professionalism and integrity of the officer corps through testing by CSTC-A, and background checks by State," the report said. "At least 9,797 [55 percent] of the nearly 17,800 officers who took the tests passed, according to CSTC-A. State was unable to provide us with statistics concerning the results of background checks, because it did not systematically compile its records."
Pay continues to be problem, mostly due to the shortage of banks in Afghanistan, the report said.