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October 22, 2008 |  4 comments |  Print  Your Opinion  

Morgan   Sheeran

Topic Afghan Surge: More Police Trainers Essential

Morgan Sheeran: The Afghans have to secure their own country. The army has benefitted from Western training, but the police continues to lack active mentoring from ISAF. While a surge of combat troops in Afghanistan could be beneficial, what is needed the most are more police trainers and mentors. The police is the lynchpin of security for each village.

There is much discussion here in the United States about a "surge" in Afghanistan. The Presidential election has brought forth plenty of discussion about Iraq and Afghanistan. The leading candidate expresses the idea that he will send several brigades of combat troops to Afghanistan as soon as possible.

While more combat troops would be a welcome addition to the existing force structure, any surge in Afghanistan must be tailored to the particular needs of Afghanistan. Afghans do not suffer occupation well. The current international force, ISAF, is by definition a " Security Assistance Force," assisting the Afghan government in securing its own country.

While American forces deployed along the border would make a difference in hindering infiltration and exfiltration between Afghanistan and Pakistan, the first task in counterinsurgency is to provide security to local populations. Utilizing American (or European) troops to provide local security will not be well-received by Afghans. It must be an Afghan mission, an Afghan accomplishment.

Tremendous progress has been made with the Afghan National Army (ANA) over the past six years of mentorship by international forces, but the Afghan National Police (ANP) have had mentoring for only about a year and a half. Only a tiny percentage of the 364 districts have had active mentoring from ISAF soldiers. The ANP continues to suffer from lack of training, lack of leadership, generally poor public opinion, endemic corruption, and a death rate ten times higher than their ANA counterparts. Under the current force structure, there is no way to provide mentors to each district in Afghanistan.

Our district teams consisted of three mentors and three SECFOR (Security Force) personnel as well as two UAHs (Up-Armored Humvees). That adds up to roughly 2200 mentors and 724 Humvees. It is possible that there can be some efficiencies found to make do with fewer, but the problems with the ANP are pervasive, so it really isn't an option to ignore any of the districts. This does not address the higher level leadership at the Ministry of the Interior, where corruption is rampant.

2200 troops are far less than the strength of a combat brigade, but 724 vehicles are far more than the commensurate number of combat troops would normally be equipped with. Another issue is training and deploying large numbers of higher-ranking officers and NCOs, which are what mentor teams usually consist of.

These are certainly challenges, but the desired end state is an Afghan government able to provide security for its people. The ANP are the lynchpin of security for each village in Afghanistan, where security is most effectively provided by an Afghan face.

When the men in the village carrying guns are ANP, and when life under those ANP is safe, just, and better than life under the Taliban, there will be security, and the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will have a future without being militarily propped-up by foreign forces.

Morgan Sheeran is a veteran of the US Armed Forces with 26 years of service including a tour in Afghanistan as a mentor/trainer; view his blog.

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Tags: | Military | troops | NATO | surge | training | ANP | ANA | ISAF | Afghanistan |
 
Comments
Florian  Broschk

October 22, 2008

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I think Mr. Sheeran makes a very important point in stressing, that security on the local level is the key to the problem and that it can be only delivered by Afghan Forces. His suggestion to vastly extend mentoring with the ANP seems a very good idea.
But I'd like to stress another important point in Mr. Sheeran's article that might seem obvious to him, but unfortunately is not so obvious on the other side of the Atlantic, especially in Germany (the lead nation for Afghan police training): Police forces in Afghanistan are paramilitary forces fighting an insurgency. ANP are not mainly dealing with the occasional burglar or shop-lifter. While it would be certainly a good thing to have them know everything about 'good governance' and German police procedures, one of their main mission, especially in rural districts, is to actively fight back well-armed Insurgents. Afghan police are armed with RPGs and machineguns for a reason (even linguistically they are considered soldiers - 'sarbaz' - in Afghanistan).
Why do I mention this? Because the German paradigm is that only policemen can train the ANP, thus limiting the candidates for trainers/mentors to volunteer policemen (not too many volunteers lately) and MP. But indeed embedded military mentor-teams could make a vast improvement: apart from providing training they had the chance of greatly enhancing ANP-morale (no longer asking why the well-paid and well-equipped western soldiers barricade themselves in their camps), monitor internal problems and providing valuable intelligence to the maneuver forces. I even suggest that by leaving the fortified camps, working and living among Afghans they would give a more accessible, more human face to the "occupation", thus countering the Insurgents' narrative.
Are there problems with this approach? Of course there are - ANP is not always a neutral force; often involved in corruption and drug-trade, sometimes despised by the local population. Embedded soldiers would face a greater risk. And - most important - it's hard to train such mentor-teams. Apart from military skills and at least a short introduction into police work they needed cultural and language skills to make them truly effective. Indeed training the trainers and sustaining them is quite difficult (these problems have been amply discussed on - among others - Abu Muqawama, see for example http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/02/youve-been-selected-for-ett... or, more serious http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/05/who-trains-us-military-advi... and a complete four-part serie with links to the previous posts at http://abumuqawama.blogspot.com/2008/06/flunking-advisor-training-m...).
Still, something being difficult is not in itsef a valid argument against a good suggestion, and I certainly see Mr. Sheeran's approach as a very good suggestion.
 
Unregistered User

October 24, 2008

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I agree, Afghanistan definitely needs more police trainers.

But: Where shall they come from?

The German police is not in a position to provide fast training for large numbers of Afghan policemen. The Afghan police's tasks are also very different from the German police's tasks.

The US army does not have enough trainers either.

The US has employed various private security contractors like DynCorp as trainers. They were very expensive, but not very successful:

The NY Times wrote: Five years after the fall of the Taliban, a joint report by the Pentagon and the State Department has found that the American-trained police force in Afghanistan is largely incapable of carrying out routine law enforcement work, and that managers of the $1.1 billion training program cannot say how many officers are actually on duty or where thousands of trucks and other equipment issued to police units have gone.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/04/world/asia/04police.html?_r=1&ore...

So where can we get more police trainers from?

Perhaps they shall come from Iran.

Iran is a neighboring country with a big interest in security in Afghanistan.

Iran has a huge drug problem. Many Iranian police men are killed every year in the war on drugs.

The US can find an ally in Iran for the stabilization of Afghanistan

Tags: | Iran can help |
 
Florian  Broschk

October 26, 2008

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Mr. Buchstein's comment raises two issues - the possibility of Iranian assistance and the nature of police-training.

Back in 2001 Iran indeed helped the US in toppling the Taliban (as recognized by James Dobbins http://www.rand.org/commentary/050604WP.html). It even seems plausible, that (as pointed out by Flynt Leverett http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/24/opinion/24leverett.html) parts of the political establishment under president Khatami saw Afghanistan as a good opportunity to improve relations with the West without giving up revolutionary credentials. Still, for a whole number of well-known reasons, the relations have deteriorated instead of improved and now the option of large scale Iranian assistance in Afghanistan is simply not on the table.
Iran, still faced with the possibility of military attacks against it's own soil, cannot even really be blamed for perceiving western troops at it's eastern border as a threat. Even if the West was serious in renouncing the use of all kinds of force, such existential threats tend to be treated as 'still possible worst-case-scenarios' in countries on the receiving end of a possible attack.

But the second issue is perhaps even more interesting. Mr. Sheeran basically not only suggested to send more police-trainers to Afghanistan but argued for the vast increase of an approach that combines training and mentoring. The ANP, bearing the brunt of a bloody COIN-campaign is not only in need of someone who lectures them on police working techniques in an academy. Mentoring teams live and work among the forces they are mentoring, training them 'on the job', monitoring difficulties and set-backs and even fighting along them (and calling for Air Support) when under attack. While I argued further above that this is not necessarily to be done by police-forces (as often assumed in Europe), Iranian forces are not terribly well-suited for such an approach either. The Iranian army is tailored for defending an attack on Iranian soil; consisting of a large percentage of conscripts and is in general neither trained for Counterinsurgency nor for stabilization-operations (nor for calling in western Air Support). The only Iranian forces who are especially trained for asymmetrical conflict belong to the Revolutionary Guards Corps, especially the now so famous Quds-Forces. Though they are reported to operate in Afghanistan, their role may deviate quite a bit from what Mr. Buchstein had in mind.
 
Morgan   Sheeran

October 27, 2008

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The United States is particularly well-suited to provide the operational mentoring that I have described and which Mr. Broschk explores in his comments. I disagree with Mr. Buchstein's assertion that the United States Army is unable to provide the numbers of mentors needed. I believe that the US Army is able to provide such mentoring, but only if it takes up some of the recommendations of men such as Dr. John Nagl.

While Dr. Nagl advocates the development of an Advisor Corps as a separate entity, which I do not believe that the institutional Army will ever buy off on, the acceptance of some of his recommendations would be an enabler in achieving the goal of providing operational training and mentoring to every ANP district in Afghanistan.

Mr. Broschk argues correctly that the initial approach to Police training in Afghanistan was not suited to the frontier-style policing that we see in practice in Afghanistan. The ANP are indeed engaged in combat operations as well as community policing.

The United States Army National Guard, due to its dual role as support to civil authorities would be best suited to this role. One thing that may have to be considered is longer tours for mentors, so that their expertise could be leveraged to the fullest. It takes a period of time once one's boots hit the ground to become effective as a mentor. The current tour length leaves only a few months in the middle of the tour where truly effective training and mentoring in an embedded manner can take place. The ensuing gaps are wasted time.

One area which has interface with the Police, and which is currently broken, is the Afghan Judiciary. Afghans have no faith in their justice system, partly due to corruption. Western countries have no experience in Islamic justice and as such have failed to make an important contribution to the furtherance of the true rule of law in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. The Iranians have experience in Islamic rule of law, and while their court system is viewed as draconian by the West, it is admired by many Afghans for its effectiveness in the enforcement of Sharia-based law.

The failure of the justice system is a major point of moral supremacy for the Taliban. The inclusion of Iranian mentoring within the justice system of Afghanistan would potentially offer the Iranians a major role in assisting in the advancement of Afghanistan while minimizing any military involvement. With this interface with NATO, there is the possibility of expanding cooperation to include infrastructure and business ventures.

Such an important role would add greatly to Iranian prestige while avoiding militarily rubbing elbows with them.

As for NATO countries with caveats on combat roles, it is time to objectively examine the many areas that are currently lacking in true mentoring within the Afghan government and the strengths and weaknesses of each NATO contingent along with their respective caveats. It is quite possible that roles can be found where important contributions with a diminished potential for combat can be found for the forces of member states with national caveats.

Such roles would go a long way towards defeating the endemic corruption upon which Taliban Information Operations are preying.
 

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