Kandahar Base Shows Inequities Between Afghan Army, Police
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAMP WILSON, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2007 A look at the forward operating base here tells you all you need to know about security in Kandahar province: Coalition and Afghan soldiers are well-equipped to handle operations, but the Afghan police need more help.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen visits troops stationed at Forward Operating Base Wilson near Kandahar, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2007. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley, USN
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Canadians are the main tenants of the base as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Their area of the base is well-kept, and Canadian and Afghan soldiers mingle easily in newly built barracks and other recently renovated structures. The Canadians have state-of-the-art communications facilities and everything they need to provide security to a troubled area.
Next to the Canadian section is the compound of the Afghan National Army. Again, this portion is well-kept. Roads are gravel; Afghan up-armored Humvees are parked in a line as soldiers get briefed before going on patrol. There is glass in the windows, phone lines connecting the buildings, and electricity.
Move to the Afghan police station just outside, and it’s a different picture. It is a bare concrete building with no phone lines. The electricity may or may not work. Instead of glass, someone fashioned metal frames in the empty windows and stuffed them full of dead weeds to cut the wind. There are no police at the station, only an old man watching two very well-behaved boys. There is a well-maintained Ford Ranger pickup truck parked outside. It has six rocket-propelled grenade launchers sticking up from the truck bed like toothpicks and a machine gun mounted above the cab.
“We know we have a lot of work to do on training the Afghan security forces here,” said Army Col. Thomas J. McGrath, commander of Afghan Regional Security Integration Command South. “Police and military training is key to long-term success in the region.”
McGrath gave Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen a tour of the facilities at Camp Wilson, today. He and members of his command briefed Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on plans to train and mentor Afghan security forces.
The Afghan army is doing well, McGrath said. He said the force fights well, but has communications, intelligence and logistical shortages. All are being overcome, and many nations have committed troops to training and mentoring the Afghan units.
The police, however, have problems with corruption, recruiting, professionalism and training, he said. McGrath said his command is committed to working to rebuild the force. The strategy is to take the police out of an area and give them eight weeks of intensive training. A national police unit would take over the district for the duration of the training.
While the police unit is gone for training, coalition officials would upgrade or build infrastructure. The units would be outfitted with equipment, vehicles and materials they need to operate, and then they would return to their districts.
There would be more training for senior officers and middle ranking police, as well.
“We would also provide the units with mentors and ongoing training once they return to the district,” McGrath said.
A police mentoring team would embed with the police in the districts. A combination of military and civilian police, the team would continue training, but also be in a position to monitor the behavior of the police.
Afghan army units and coalition forces would be nearby in an overwatch capacity and could help the Afghan police with operational planning and intelligence integration, the colonel said.