A well-trained police force is a key to nation building, and Germany is a leader in the field. Berlin pledged to continue taking on the lion's share of preparing Afghanistan's police.
A German border guard explains his job to Kabul recruits, via translator
Germany has promised to continue helping Afghanistan build up its police force, retaining its leading role there.
"Germany sees it as a paramount duty to support the Afghan police force through comprehensive training and equipment projects," German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said at the opening of an international conference on Afghanistan, held Tuesday in the Qatar capital of Doha.
Interior Minister Schäuble addressed the Doha conference
From 2002 to 2005, Germany spent 58 million euros ($69 million) training Afghani police, and 12 million euros are earmarked for 2006 alone. So far, more than 63,000 police have been trained with German aid.
But German police are busy on training missions outside Afghanistan as well. Peter Jördening, who works with the department of foreign assignments in the Interior Ministry's international police mission, calls Germany's engagement in training foreign police a "strong trend." Currently there are 353 federal and state police involved in nine training missions world-wide.
This includes involvement in EU missions in Bosnia, Macedonia, the Palestinian territories, and Sudan. In addition, they are involved in UN missions in Kosovo, Georgia and Liberia. Their involvement in Afghanistan is part of a bilateral agreement.
Since its first foreign deployment -- from 1989 to 1994 in Namibia -- the German police have been increasingly involved overseas. Jördening, who headed up the German police office in Kabul from 2003 to 2004, stressed the importance of training foreign forces.
In Kosovo, not only German KFOR soldiers are deployed (seen here), but police as well
"Without a functioning police force, a land cannot become stable," Jördening said. "It is a lesson we have learned from numerous peacetime missions."
But it has taken the public a while to come to this realization, said Thorsten Stodiek from the Institute for Peace Studies and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg.
Changing role of police
"In the eyes of the public, and also in the eyes of numerous international institutions, the role of the police in nation building was underestimated until well into the 1990s," Stodiek said.
Since then, however, things have changed. Now the United Nations, European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) all see European police involvement overseas as increasingly important.
Yet the police deployed overseas are generally doing so on ever tighter budgets, thus limiting their role. For example, German police do not have executive powers in Afghanistan. "No policeman goes on the street and arrests people or directs traffic," said the Interior Ministry's Jördening. German police occasionally have an executive mandate in Kosovo, he said. But in all other countries, it is mostly there just to train local police.
Call for executive mandate
Security researcher Stodiek argues that it would make more sense to give German police a local executive mandate, when it is a question of maintaining peace and order. "In contrast to the military, the police are trained and equipped to this end exactly," he said.
However, even if it does make sense to send more police and fewer soldiers to a country in order to reduce the increasing world-wide military burden, the military will often be required to overtake police duties.
"Unfortunately, the member states of the UN, EU and OSCE are not prepared to put out the financial resources needed to keep up the increased need for police training," said University of Hamburg's Stodiek.
It would take the deployment of more than 25,000 police in Afghanistan, in order to achieve comparable results as in Kosovo, where the UN has deployed 3,700 police -- the largest peacekeeping police contingent to date. "That is pure fantasy. It is not doable, on an international level," said Stodiek.
Germans must volunteer
There is another reason it may be unlikely that yet greater numbers of German police will take on jobs overseas -- they aren't obliged to do so. While some European police forces can be forced to go overseas (the French Gendarmerie, for example,) German police must agree to overseas deployment.
Thus the success of a second UN mission to train police in Sudan depends in part on how willing German police are to make the move to Africa.