Afghan Police Training (Part 1)
Nov. 1, 2008
Two months down and only 10 more to go. The time is flying by so far. We recently said goodbye to a group of sailors who completed their nine month tour in Afghanistan. I can only begin to imagine how great it will feel when our time comes and we have finished up a successful tour here.
I began writing these articles to give the people in my hometown a better look at life in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom. I've spent a lot of time writing about my personal journey and what life entails here at Camp Phoenix. I did this because I think it is vitally important for people back in the states to get a first hand account and not just stories spun by the mass media to serve certain agendas. Along with personal experiences, there are a number of other aspects of this war that are rarely covered for those back home. In this article I want to take the time to further explain what it means to "rebuild" this country and accomplish our mission of helping Afghanistan build self-sustaining and well respected national security forces for the country's citizens. These topics are touched on from time to time, but the process has never actually been explained to the U.S. people who will never experience it. My goal is not to write an academic research paper on the police development, but I do want to explain more specifically the programs developed for training. Due to the length it will take to explain the police training programs, I am going to detail the process in two separate articles. In this article I will break down the first half of the training, and then I'll explain the second half of the training in my next article. I wish there was a more succinct way to explain the process, but to truly understand the complexity of these programs; I want to be sure to write about every aspect in detail.
My job description is listed as the "Current Operations Officer" here in the Police Advisory Cell at Camp Phoenix. We are one level in the chain of command that is responsible for tracking the entire country's police development. Training your everyday policeman on the street here is a standard concept that should probably be perfected at this point. However, this is not the case for a number of reasons. The number one impediment to progress in the Afghan Police is the rampant corruption throughout every level of the program. Money and greed are definitely the root of all evil here. Police Chiefs are often corrupted by local drug lords. This results in the local population losing all confidence in those responsible for their protection. Corruption and the lack of adherence to "the rule of law" are major issues, but not the only reasons progress is slowed to a crawl at times. Every district (county equivalent) in Afghanistan is different, and each has very unique situations that must be dealt with in their own way.
With that being said, the coalition forces here in country were faced with the task of developing a better way to train these mostly uneducated Afghans so that they could gain the confidence of the locals and become self sustaining forces. The process that was developed for the Afghan Police about 18 months ago was Focused District Development (FDD). You might be asking what has taken so long (I know I was thinking the same thing). We have been here for 7 years and the Army is far more advanced in their capabilities and training than the Police. The dynamic nature of operations here led to the majority of time and effort being focused on the Army. This has put the police way behind the learning curve. It's better late than never, and FDD is now the leading program in the country. I want to take the time to explain this process so you can see exactly what goes into transforming illiterates into an organized police force.
The six phase FDD process begins with site selection. During this process the U.S. regional commanders (Afghanistan is broken down into 6 regions) meet with the coalition commanders and their Afghan counterparts in charge of the ANP (Afghan National Police). During these meetings, districts are selected to enter the FDD process. Criteria that determine the site selections include location, ethnic makeup of the region, attitudes of the locals, ability to implement rule of law, and infrastructure available among others.
Once site selection is finalized, the Police Mentor Teams (PMTs) are assigned to their respective districts and begin the first phase of FDD: District Assessment and Reformation Team (DART) training. PMTs are made up of coalition military personnel that provide mentorship and security forces. There are also civilian mentors provided by various contractors who are police officers in their civilian jobs. These mentors are extremely important in providing the specialized police training the Afghans desperately need. It is this dynamic team structure that is best utilized to achieve success in the mission. During the DART training phase, PMT representatives receive a 10 day orientation that outlines the specific tasks and goals for their mentorship with the Afghans (all military assigned to PMT jobs prior to arriving in country receive pre-deployment training in the U.S.). While this training is being conducted, there are police recruiters in the districts signing up potential policemen. Once the PMT reps complete their DART training, they are sent to their districts to begin the assessment. During this time, representatives from various groups (National and local Afghan leaders, civilian police reps, linguists, and regional/provincial Police Chiefs) join the PMT members to determine both strengths and weaknesses in the area. Facilities, community leadership, judicial infrastructure, and overall organization of the district are evaluated. Once this district assessment is complete and the recruitment process is finished, FDD phase II will commence.
FDD phase II involves a completely different segment of the Afghan National Police forces. The Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) is a more highly specialized group of men whose major qualifying distinction is the ability to read and write. This police force is comparable to our S.W.A.T. teams and does a very good job of maintaining order and peace. The large discrepancy in capabilities between this group and the regular uniform police clearly illustrates the role that illiteracy plays in the police training process. During this second phase, the ANCOP police companies are sent to each FDD district and spend two weeks taking over jurisdiction and responsibility so the recently recruited Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) can leave the district to attend a Regional Training Center (RTC). The AUP will spend two months at the RTC, and during this time, the ANCOP unit in the district will also receive mentorship and validation by civilian and military mentors.
The AUP members' trip to the RTC begins phase III of the FDD process known as Reconstitution and Reform Training. The 8-week course begins with a few days of in-processing with U.S. military personnel who are specifically trained in this process. They conduct biometrics (pictures, fingerprinting, etc.) which are vital in developing personnel databases for the newly formed police units. In addition they also receive their first test as AUP members, a test that sometimes results in up to a 20-30% failure rate. This is the point where they are given their first drug test. You name it, and they've popped positive for it. In our most recent in-processing evolution, we actually had a number of Afghans test positive for methamphetamine. Marijuana and poppy/heroine are somewhat common in these tests, but this was one of the first times that meth was discovered. It is scary to think that people who can't even read or write are somehow finding ways to produce these synthetic drugs.
This reconstitution and reform training involves 3 different types of training: a basic course comparable to any initial military/police training, advanced training and tactics (courses that involve everything from criminal investigation to crime scene analysis), and leadership basics. The last phase of this training concludes with the Afghan police forces coordinating a movement plan from the training center back to the districts where they will begin working. This is a very important first step in empowering the Afghans and teaching them that their success is based off their initiative and willingness to take control of the learning process. In the military we preach a concept of "training the trainer". That is the basic premise behind mentoring and training the Afghan Police. The goal is to reach an end state where they are self-sustaining and capable of maintaining order throughout the country without mentorship. Eventually they will not have our mentors to lean on. They will become the mentors.
This summarizes the first three phases of the Focused District Development program. It's safe to say that these are by far the easiest steps of the program. These initial phases are structured well and don't provide much room for the Afghans to deviate from the plan. In the second half of this article, I will continue to explain the concept of FDD and the final three phases that make up the program. Up to this point I hope you have been able to decipher all the acronyms and terminology enough to find the information interesting. This is just one of many programs that are being employed throughout this country to help the security forces of Afghanistan. As you can see, there is a great deal of coordination and planning that encompasses each aspect of the training. While none of it is perfect, it is a good plan for the current state of the Afghan Police. The key to continued success will be the motivation of both the mentors and the Afghans themselves. We have given this country so much and in return all we are asking for is their personal dedication to becoming self-sustaining units that can stand on their own with the right level of mentorship and training.
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