Germans have been training police in Afghanistan for years. Since summer 2007, they have been doing this within the framework of the EU police mission, EUPOL Afghanistan, which the German Jürgen Scholz headed until Sept. 30.
Spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Interior Zemarai Bashari
It’s lunchtime at this police academy in Afghanistan. Police trainees are partaking in marching exercises, which are supposed to improve discipline and are a key part of the training programme for Afghan police officers.
But tactics and strategy have priority. For EUPOL, it’s all about the wider picture -- about helping the Afghan police force to undergo a complete transformation.
Zemarai Bashari, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior in Kabul, has praise for Germany and the EU police mission but urges them to do more.
“Germany has done a good job in the past training the police of Afghanistan. They’re also involved right now. When EUPOL opened its office in Kabul we expected a lot from them and we still expect them to do more things here in the country.”
EUPOL still does not have enough resources
US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates also called on EUPOL to do “more things” in Afghanistan last year.
Last month, the EU acted on this pressure, deciding to increase the number of trainers and experts from 180 to 400. Not nearly as many as Gates and the Afghans wanted, however.
“In the current situation, this is not enough,” complains Bashari. “The police of Afghanistan are dying everyday and that’s because of equipment and because more training is required. We want more support to come -- not in the long-run but now because the threats are so high and we need to tackle them. From the beginning of the year, we have lost 769 police officers.”
Considerable progress nevertheless
Despite a distinct lack of resources, Hameed Tabish, an Afghan police trainer who was trained by EUPOL, says there has been considerable progress: “Police training has changed fundamentally. Today, it is about democratic guidelines, justice and internationally-recognised norms. Police work now is based on human rights, democracy and national and international law.”
Zarmina Osmani, who was trained by Afghan trainers who had been trained by EUPOL, also has praise for the new situation: “Before it was difficult to join the police as a woman. But the situation has changed and women are also being trained. I have already taken part in two trainings for improving the skills of female police officers and I passed both.”
But not everyone in Afghanistan is in favour of female police officers. This was made very clear last weekend, when Islamist extremists shot dead the country’s most high-ranking female officer, Lieutenant Colonel Malalai Kakar, a 41-year-old mother of six.
Improved policing attitude
Such incidents are unfortunately commonplace in today’s Afghanistan but many ordinary citizens are satisfied with the police.
Jabar Maqsoodi, a student in Kabul, thinks police officers have improved their attitude: “One small example is the way they behave with drivers. If police stop a car today they say ‘hello’ and are much friendlier than they were before. They ask whether they can search the car and ask to see the driving licence etc. They behave in a way that is expected by the law and human rights.”
But the police still has some way to go before it is up to the mark, says Jabar Maqsoodi, adding that what EUPOL does is good but still not enough.