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.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Yesterday, I received an email from a COL David Johnson who is the Director of Command Communications for NTM-A with comments on my last post on the ANP. It seems that Blogger wouldn't let him post the comment himself, hence the email. However, I felt that his comments warrant a post of its own, of course followed by a few of my own comments (blogger's prerogative and all that). So here's COL Johnson:
No doubt, a successful police development program is one of the keys to the Government of Afghanistan assuming the security lead by the end of 2014. But to say the U.S. is not serious about the Afghan National Police (ANP) as a viable force to assume the security responsibilities is not accurate. The ANP training mission transition from DoS to DoD was conducted between Dec 30, 2010 and Apr 29, 2011. The training mission had two elements, 1) training and mentoring; and 2) base support for 15 training sites. On contract transfer, 300 of 728 Dyncorp positions were filled, a manning rate of 41 percent.
The Nato Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) headquartered at Camp Eggers in Kabul extended the current DoS contractor fill for 90 positions. NTM-A assumed risk in other areas and retasked personnel along with requesting NATO support to fill 148 positions. The endstate and contract transfer from DoS to DoD was 540 of 728 positions filled, a 74 percent manning rate. At no time was training of the police cancelled. In fact, on page 15 of the report it states that "no training classes were cancelled." So, where are we today police training? Currently, 633 of 673 trainer/mentor positions are filled, a 94 percent manning rate. Additionally, on May 26, 2011, NTM-A issued a letter of concern to the contract due to the contractor's inability to meet manning requirements. On June 1, 2011 the contractor agreed to reduce the transition period award fee by $326,000; reducing from $601,000 to $275,000, a reduction of 54%. NTM-A is committed to ensuring that Afghanistan's security institutions, and not just the Police, but the Army and Air Force as well, are self-sufficient, self-sustaining, and enduring. Significant investment, by the American taxpayer, has been made to consciously provide the Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) with capable, affordable and sustainable weapons, vehicles, equipment, and infrastructure. This investment must first, meet the requirement to defeat the current threat and protect the people of Afghanistan; it must be affordable and provide the best value over time; it must be sustainable and durable to withstand the harsh Afghan environment; and it must able to be maintained without international assistance.
Developing the ANSF to endure will continue to be the goal, but it will require patience and commitment on the part of the international community. The return on the investment is a capable and professional ANSF that endures long after the coalition combat forces have departed Afghanistan. So, are we getting it right? In some areas the ANP has made incredible progress, in other areas, challenges still exist. But to look back from where we started and where we are today, I am confident when I say that the ANP is on track to meet its 157,000 police force mark by November 2012.
Thank you for your comments, COL Johnson. Firstly, I did not mention the points in the IG reports which gave credit to DoD for fixing a number of the reported problems very quickly and it seems that the manning problems have been largely fixed since then, including making the contractor pay for deficiencies. That was a fairly rapid remediation. So in this regard, I did not acknowledge what had been corrected. So well done on that, NTM-A.
But I still stand by my statement that the U.S. is not serious about police development - which I think is more a fundamental difference with how NTM-A is approaching ANP training and mentoring. This is not to say that DoS or DoD are not serious about - from the looks of it, they have and are working very hard on it. However, we still have a problem in that the contracted program is essentially a train and equip program to me numerical output metrics to fight the insurgency. So here's the conundrum: the USG needs to have a large and protected organization to overwatch the production of police forces in the midst of a counterinsurgency campaign and only DoD fits that description even if their military mission is counter intuitive to long-term police development. The military sees the ANP as a counterinsurgent force and trains them (through a contractor) as such - which explains the focus on numbers. Yet, this is a very short sighted strategy - the idea is that the insurgency will be eventually "defeated" at which point you now have 157,000 or so Afghan National Policemen who know how to operate in a hostile insurgency environment, but probably know squat about the routine enforcement of law. When this happens, the likelihood of the police becoming a driver of conflict (not that the ANP isn't now in my places) is significant. I'll point you again to Bill Rosenau's paper on this topic as well the ANP section of this paper I wrote in the spring.
It's not surprising that DoD is focusing on the counterinsurgent aspect of the ANP - they wouldn't get a chance to do community-type policing if a there isn't a peace. But I still think this is the wrong approach. Why is NTM-A building a force that is essentially poorly equipped and trained ANA to conduct essentially identical operations? Especially when the ANA is obviously so much better than the ANP at conducting these ops? I personally believe that NTM-A shouldn't be doing this ANP training and mentoring program and should effectively move the ANP into the ANA. If they're doing the same mission anyway, DoD ought to focus on what it knows best: training militaries. In the meantime and until the ANP could operate independently and focus on actual policing, DoJ (or DHS) should be leading and executing a police development program for a cadre of officers who would provide the initial leadership of ANP once it comes back on line. If this were to happen, ISAF would get the counterinsurgent forces it needs while Afghanistan would get the police it needs once the fighting has subsided.
I think you would find that if the USG writ large were serious about police development then DoJ would play a bigger role than they already do and have the resources to execute this mission. We would also stop wasting our time developing lousy infantry to fight an insurgency, who are supposed to be policemen. Make the ANP police or make them infantry, but they can't be both or they'll continue being bad at both of them. The USG has dropped its departments into a very hard situation and expects them to come up with the right solution, which I'm not sure they're capable of doing because of the organizations and cultures. This is not an indictment of the people trying to solve these challenges - they were dealt a lousy hand and they're doing what they think is right. And I certainly don't envy COL Johnson and his command for this tough mission. But at some point we're going to have to fix our organization and culture across the USG to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.
Thanks again to COL Johnson for taking the time to comment here.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
How do you take a massive government project that is failing and ensure that it fails more and better in the future? You transition the contract between departments with little oversight or planning and then allow the contractor to fail to fully staff it. So says the IGs of the Departments of State and Defense on the perennially challenged Afghan National Police training program.
Let's start with the basics on this roughly $300 million per year program. It was started, as most police training programs are, by the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL). This Assistant Secretariat is staffed by hardworking Americans that are Foreign Service Officers - not experts on policing generally speaking (there are of course, a number of these FSOs who have become so in their tenure at INL, but this is the exception in my experience here in DC and in the field). Between this lack of expertise and their organizational structure, they are incapable of in-sourcing police development programs. This has led to their becoming a contracting agency for DoS, which has brings us to these massive outsourcing contracts - primarily to DynCorps. Challenge number one is having a government agency with little expertise in a discipline overseeing a ~1000 person contract conducting that discipline. Without getting onto my training versus development soap box, in my mind this is one of the greatest reasons the ANP are still a failure throughout most of Afghanistan.
So it's not working and the powers that be decide that maybe DoD should take over the contracting responsibilities for training the ANP. DoD is a big organization that handles lots of ginormous contracts, so it should work. Right? Wrong. Let's now talk about another organization that knows next to nothing about policing. I've written before about the large differences between the police and the military - the fact that they're both in uniforms and armed does not mean that they are interchangeable. If you doubt this, just take a look at Iraq's police or read this excellent paper by the brilliant Bill Rosenau. From a performance monitoring perspective, this transition will likely not change the outlook for ANP training in the coming years from its DoS days.
Now that we've argued that two departments who have owned this contract don't really know what they're doing, let's take a quick look at the IG report (quick because the bean counting stuff puts me to sleep).
- Finding A: DoD and DoS did not sufficiently plan for the transition. A billion dollars over three years for the program that more than one senior official has billed as our exit strategy. How does this happen? This is how you take a bad program and make it worse. Read the rest of this section - this is almost criminal.
- Finding B: Additional personnel needed for program management and contract oversight. We're looking at oversight organizations that don't know much about the topic they're contracting and then they're not even staffing them to do the basic oversight work such as processing paperwork.
Successful police development is one of the major keys to our withdrawal from Afghanistan. And yet we're still doing train and equip programs through contractors who are understaffed and receive oversight from government organizations who don't very well understand what they're supposed to do. Now we see that a significant event in all of this that was designed to improve how things were being done was absolutely fumbled and still not corrected as of this week. It is apparent that the U.S. is still not serious about the Afghan National Police as a viable force to assume responsibilities after we transition responsibility. So let's get this right very quickly or think about not wasting any more money on this endeavor.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011
This morning, Andrew Exum highlighted a throwaway piece in the Washington Post on the police in Egypt. Like many unstable and/or despotic states, the police forces are among the greatest threats to the citizens of those countries. Whereas in most Western countries the police exist to protect the people, in most of the rest of the world the police exist to protect the state from the people. As you can imagine, governments love and people hate this setup. In cases like Egypt, changing the police forces to protect the people can go a long a way to improving the stability of the country - especially after they've tried and failed to suppress the population.
Change of this nature requires significant work on not just the training of police, but cultural adaptation and development. Evolving the mindset of established forces can take a long time, if it's not a generational effort. Sacking the police and starting over usually fails as well. Just like disbanding militaries, firing armed and trained policemen introduces a destabilizing force onto the streets; a force that had had better luck with the previous regime (see Iraq). It also presents the difficulty of vetting new police, often in countries with low literacy (see Afghanistan). Mere training programs from the U.S. also do not even begin to address the problem - often the police are already moderately trained. While improving their skills and capabilities are necessary, developing them as professional police requires a change in mindset and should be the focus of U.S. police assistance. The entirety of the literature on this topic supports this, even if development doesn't always do the trick (obviously, the host nation needs to really want to change its ways).
Ex is right in the gist of his post - if we're invited to help these newly-democratizing nations, we should start with the police. I diverge from his position in that we shouldn't start a training program, we should initiate a police development program (again, if invited to do so). Funding-wise, a small team of police development experts that help the Egyptians revamp their police structure, policies, and police academy curriculum would provide dividends much greater than the investment. This should be our focus in the region, not military aid, which is expensive for the USG and provides little return in stability or U.S. national objectives.
For those of you not in the small circle of people and organizations that work on police development issues, the USG's primary organization for doing this is the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program (ICITAP). (Disclosure: With my previous company I did some work with ICITAP, but they were never a client.) This is a fantastic program within the Department of Justice that I was very impressed with, both here in Washington and in the field. And they really get it, which is why I'm giving them this free advertisement. They also come in a quite cost effective as they have relatively small staff and are funded by other USG agencies when implementing programs abroad. The challenges to getting them out into the field, though, is that they have a relatively small staff and are funded by other USG agencies when implementing programs abroad. In spite of their good work in many places (see Kosovo, Iraq, Panama, and a host of others), they aren't always the first agency used for U.S. police programs. Often, train and equip contracts are used first - sometimes succeeding, but often not and then require ICITAP expertise to sort things out. Another challenge for ICITAP is that police development often takes 10 or more years if done correctly, which is often beyond the political and budgetary horizons of the U.S., so the U.S. often chooses haste over right. We need to stop doing that.
The point of all of this is to say that police development is what the U.S. should focus their efforts on if we're asked to asked to help out in these countries. And we're asked to do so, the USG should support ICITAP missions to conduct these development and reform operations (in conjunction with their their DoJ OPDAT brethren and DoS INL training programs). In these days of governmental austerity, it is a cost effective way to meet USG objectives and the needs of the local governments and people.