Wednesday, February 29, 2012
I can't remember who tweeted a link to this excellent report on ANP development (speak up and be recognized!), but if you're interested in police development it is a must read. A product of the Peace Research Institute - Frankfort, the authors (Cornelius Friesendorf and Jorg Krempel) titled the work Militarized versus Civilian Policing: Problems of Reforming the Afghan National Police, looked at best practices in building a civilian police force and the German and US involvement in Afghanistan with the ANP.
The paper dives into a lot of the nitty-gritty of the ANP development program dating back to 2002 and it's worth a read. (I wish it had been translated when I wrote this paper that touched on some of these issues this past spring.) But I want to focus in on some of the conclusions and attempt to draw them into bigger thoughts beyond Afghanistan. They cite numerous issues of donors not effectively supporting the ANP development, recruiting problems, training problems, corruption problems, and so on and so forth. All important.
But what's important in this paper is that they look very closely at the intersection of police and military responsibilities and point how horribly wrong we've been delineating responsibilities between the ANA and ANP. Due to a number of factors - lack of a democratic policing tradition in the years running up to 2001, the use of military forces to train the nascent ANP, and operational needs - ISAF is building a paramilitary force not a police force. While the first of these factors can be overcome in my opinion (Kosovo provides a pretty example of making an adequate police force essentially from scratch), I think the latter two are catastrophic to police development programs if not done correctly. And we're not doing it correctly.
In brief, if a military force trains a police force, that police force is much more likely to look like a military force than a police force. Just as in Iraq, the ANP are formed into military structures (unless that's changed recently), they carry military-grade weapons (including RPGs on occasion), and they have little interest in the tedium of enforcing the law. Simply put, if you train your police with the military, you end up with police who can't police and are an under-trained and under-equipped military force. What you end up with is a force that exacerbates conflict instead of quelling it that primarily acts as a strong-arm of local factions or even national entities (such as in Iraq where the INP became the MoI's private Army). Historical studies have shown that military training of police forces nearly invariably result in this scenario and we need to stop doing it. Of course, that would require building capabilities and/or capacities in our civilian agencies such as ICITAP, OPDAT, USAID, or even INL. Something that seems unlikely given Congress's fetishization of military power over civilian power. Alas.
However, this pales in comparison to the operational necessities that drive police development away from policing and towards military operations. When conducting police development in countries embroiled in an intra-state war, priority is given to the operational needs to defeat the state's enemies, not to stemming crime. The U.S. and other donors have been building the ANP into a counterinsurgency force in their own right to "thicken the lines" as the old Iraq saw went. Community police simply wouldn't be able to defend themselves against any quasi-military insurgency. As they would be among the first targets of the insurgency, police being among the most visible realizations of a state's power, they would simply be slaughtered. This would then require precious military resources to be pulled from finding bad guys and instead guard the police. It's a lose-lose situation for any operational commander. So we've taken the middle path: forget policing and build a quasi-military police force. A force that, again, stinks at policing and stinks at military operations.
This is an offhand synopsis and analysis of the paper I linked to, but it distills to the fundamental flaws of our attempts to build a police force in Afghanistan. Because of the myriad problems underlying our efforts and our militarization of the ANP (because of the two factors discussed here), we're failing Afghanistan by not fielding an effective police force now and virtually ensuring that the ANP cannot transition into a true police force. Friesendorf and Krempel put it much more eloquently, but that's the basis of their conclusion. Nice, huh?
So what do we do about it? Our boys from Frankfurt call for reforms to the program and to ensure that those in ISAF who are assisting in driving the ANP strategy are police experts and not military officers (they don't say it, but an MP is not a policeman, so no, not even an MP should be doing this). Concur entirely. I don't know what else we can do for the ANP at this point. But the lesson we need to draw from Afghanistan and Iraq is that in conflict countries maybe we shouldn't do police development at all until violence reaches levels where they can operate as police and not as soldiers. Police development in the early stages of the war should focus on the ministries responsible and a cadre of officers who are provided with long and intensive training who don't actually do any policing until a violence threshold is met. At that point, DDR programs could help staff the police force around this framework of cadre who can then instill a proper police culture throughout the force and train their policemen to be policemen. Instead of throwing billions of dollars at sub-par police who also are sub-par counterinsurgents as well as conflict drivers, maybe we shouldn't do any of that until the environment is safe enough for an actual community police force to operate.
Unlikely, but maybe in the next war.