With Raw Recruits, Afghan Police Buildup Falters
By ROD NORDLAND, February 2, 2010, New York Times
KABUL, Afghanistan — The NATO general in charge of training the Afghan police has some tongue-in-cheek career advice for the country’s recruits.
“It’s better to join the Taliban; they pay more money,” said Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio, from Italy’s paramilitary Carabinieri force.
That sardonic view reflects a sobering reality. The attempts to build a credible Afghan police force are faltering badly even as officials acknowledge that the force will be a crucial piece of the effort to have Afghans manage their own security so American forces can begin leaving next year.
Though they have revamped the program recently and put it under new leadership, Afghan, NATO and American officials involved in the training effort list a daunting array of challenges, as familiar as they are intractable.
One in five recruits tests positive for drugs, while fewer than one in 10 can read and write — a rate even lower than the Afghan norm of 15 percent literacy. Many cannot even read a license plate number. Taliban infiltration is a constant worry; incompetence an even bigger one.
After eight weeks of training, an average of 5 percent of recruits cannot pass firearms tests — but are given a gun and sent out to duty. Unsurprisingly, the Afghan National Police have the highest casualty rates of all the security forces fighting the Taliban; 646 died last year, compared with 282 Afghan Army soldiers and 388 NATO troops, according to NATO figures.
The death rate, poor pay and lack of equipment are among the reasons that a fourth of the officers quit every year, making the Afghan government’s lofty goals of substantially building up the police force even harder to achieve.
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