By Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith
Special to American Forces Press Service
Dec. 16, 2009 - The first exclusive Afghan National Police Women's Police Corps Training Center was established in the heart of Jalalabad here Dec. 5. The opening ceremony for the center was held in honor of Lt. Col. Malalai Kakar of the Afghan National Police, who some say was a martyr for the Afghan women's rights movement when she was assassinated by the Taliban as she left her home to go to her job as Kandahar's deputy police commander.
The ceremony celebrated Kakar's bravery and applauded the women who answered the call to do more in rebuilding Afghanistan.
"She was our sister and a martyr in the police forces," said Margun, a new recruit at the center. "[Kakar] was the example for us all, and I hope to recruit as well as serve as honorably for the future of my people."
Until the center opened, women joining the Afghan National Police trained in shared facilities throughout the country. The new center's exclusivity will serve as a model and support element in strengthening the Afghan police force, officials said.
Assistant U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan E. Anthony Wayne was in attendance for the grand opening and echoed the message of recent speeches from U.S. President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
"Strengthening the Afghanistan National Police is even more important for Afghanistan today, as well as for its international partners," he said. "It will be clear to the Afghan government, but more important to the Afghan people, that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country."
The training center's opening also placed new emphasis on the need to recruit. With a goal of 650 women to be added to the Afghan National Police ranks over the next two years, speakers at the event said even more must be done to assist Afghan women in exercising their rights under Afghan law.
"There are no challenges here -- just opportunity," said Joseph McDonough, a 17-year veteran police detective. "We actually have a hand in their progress, watch them grow stronger and be successful. They can be empowered to show what they can bring to the table, and this academy is a step in the right direction."
(Army Sgt. Tracy J. Smith serves in the Georgia National Guard's 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team public affairs office.)