By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity
June 4, 2010 - Six months isn't a lot of time to get an operation up and running, but NATO forces in Afghanistan have made amazing strides in training the Afghan National Police in that time, a senior officer involved in that effort said today.
Canadian Army Maj. Gen. Mike Ward, deputy commander-Police, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, discussed the progress of the Afghan National Police since the stand-up of NTM-A with bloggers on a DoDLive Bloggers Roundtable.
There are many challenges, Ward said, including leadership development, literacy issues, corruption and attrition, but there also are "balls rolling in the right direction."
"We're beginning to see some changes ... that will vastly increase the amount of leadership development that will take place, and that will increase the number of young patrolmen who will be recruited, trained, and assigned to the various districts around the country," he said.
That, along with the establishment of recruiting and training commands in the Afghan Ministry of the Interior, will mature the ministry and allow it to take over more of the nuts-and-bolts operations to manage the police force, Ward said.
"They've had an Afghan National Police Academy established for the last 75 years, and they partnered early with police forces from Germany ... to develop that first level of initial leadership, from an officer candidate school perspective to the first commissioned assignment," Ward said. "That's the good news."
He explained that there hasn't been any kind of police staff college in the country for 40 years. Beyond the initial training in the academy, there is little to no leadership training for officers, and experiential development throughout an officer's career could vary drastically from officer to officer.
A viable solution, Ward said, would be creating training programs at various command qualification points. For example, an officer would need to attend a school before taking a position as chief of police for a city, province or district.
Producing Afghan police supervisors that understand their missions and know how to lead and comprehend upper-level law enforcement and management techniques, Ward said, is critical to Afghan security and transitioning control from NATO to the Ministry of the Interior.
"This year, we've sat down with the ministry and with the European Union Police and we've begun to design a national police staff college that reintroduces key elements of core professional development beyond the junior officer level," he said. "That, more than anything else, is going to transform the institution of the police."
Ward said there is a similar problem among non-commissioned officers in the police force. Efforts are underway, he said, to identify top-performing NCOs in the Afghan police, and recommend they undergo training to become officers.
"This is very much based on many Western models," he said. "Rarely do you have officers starting at the middle grades. It's how we do it in Canada, too. Everybody starts as a constable. Nobody starts in the middle grades."
Ward said the most-important element of police training in Afghanistan is making sure the Afghans have the opportunity to expand and show their ability to provide for their own security and develop into a fully functioning independent force.
"I'm sensing that we do now have a priority placed on the police that will generate better outcomes in the near term," he said. "The issue is making sure we can give them space to learn and space to demonstrate that they understand how they will prosecute police operations here. They're doing better and better, and there's cause for optimism."