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The Herald (UK), January 10, 2007

"In some areas of Helmand, the police are your worst enemy"

Corrupt police, many effectively drug barons, continue to operate. Some retain forces like private armies.

DAVID LEASK in Afghanistan

The Dushka is on the roof of a mud brick fort, a huge black Soviet machine gun dripping heavy belts of half-inch rounds.

From behind it, Sergeant Syeed Din Mangal can see right across the desert to the green valley of the River Helmand and the strategic Afghan town of Gereshk.A mile or two beyond are the hills and valleys where Royal Marines, backed up by Sgt Din's British-trained Afghan National Army (ANA), are fighting the Taliban, effectively the front line in the war on terror.The Taliban, however, are not the only ones terrorising Gereshk. So are the police.

"They are thieves," said Sgt Din through a translator, pointing to the town. "They stop the vehicles at checkpoints and take money. One day we tried to stop them. They cocked their weapons. So did we. The ANA commander told us not to get involved."

After 18 months in the ANA, Sgt Din, 25, is now well-trained and respected by his mentors, Royal Marines from Arbroath-based 45 Commando. He came back from a lifetime abroad - he was born to a refugee family in Pakistan - to fight for the new Afghanistan of President Hamid Karzai.

"At least four of the current candidates for provincial police chief were barred from standing as candidates in last year's parliamentary elections for having links to illegal militias."
"... Kabul's police chief, Jamil Jumbish, has been implicated in murder, torture, intimidation, bribery and interfering with investigations into misconduct by officers directly under his control."
HRW, May 4, 2006

He wanted to fight the Talibs. Now he thinks the lawless police are making his real enemy stronger. He said: "If the police weren't like this, the Taliban would be weaker. If the Taliban weren't here, the police might not do this."

A couple of months ago the ANA in Gereshk lost patience with the police. Five were arrested and brought back to the army's fort compound.No-one has much good to say about the police in Afghanistan. Britain is determined to change that with a massive programme of training similar to the work of 45 Commando with the ANA.

Captain Julian Apps, an Arbroath-based commando and Glasgow University graduate, reckons men such as Syeed Din and his sergeant major, Safar, are key."They are spot on," said the captain. "If the Afghan security services were all made up of men like Safar's then we would definitely be going in the right direction."

But most men with Kalashnikovs are not ANA sergeants. Some experts think that is a problem for British troops.

One British expert based in Helmand believes the UK Task Force is putting itself at risk by associating with police. "We will be tarred with the same dirty brush," he said. "Afghans hate the police; they rob, rape and extort bribes. There are central areas of Helmand where the police are quite good. There are areas where they are your worst enemy."

Canada gives $10M to Afghan police force, Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay announced Monday during the second day of his visit to the country.
CanWest News Service, Jan. 7, 2007

Corrupt police, many effectively drug barons, continue to operate. Some retain forces like private armies. The British, who have more than 4000 soldiers in Helmand province, believe they can make the police work. They are helping to build stations for the chief of police and have trained more than 500 police auxiliaries and expect to train as many again. That is part of a strategy of generating good governance, encouraging people to take over rather than just letting British forces carry out development.

Barry Kavanagh, a development expert from Thorntonhall near Glasgow, is overseeing efforts in Helmand for the UK government. "There have to be new people. Otherwise we will leave the place and it will go to rats." Even close to the front that philosophy reigns.Less than a mile from Sgt Din's fort is Forward Operating Base Price, Britain's main redoubt in Gereshk. Its commander is Major Ewen Murchison, 38, a former Scotland rugby under-21 rugby international from Bearsden.

"More than 90 per cent of the police are corrupt," said a Kabul businessman, interviewed while visiting Mazar-e-Sharif on a buying trip. "Last year my shop in Kabul was robbed. After the robbery I found the identity card of one of the local police in my shop. When I brought it to the police station, the commander took it off me, and warned me not to tell anyone or else my life would be at risk."
Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Jun.6, 2006

He is determined to bring both the Afghan army and police up to scratch. He needs to: many positions hard won or even built under fire by his men are handed over to the Afghans.

"Hopefully we'll solve this problem with genuine legit people acting as policemen and not looting," Maj Murchison said.

In a sign of the continuing danger, three Taliban fighters have blown themselves up in a botched attack on British troops and their allies.

The men are believed to have accidentally set off a roadside bomb just over a mile outside FOB Price, home to 250 UK soldiers.

The device, made from an old Russian anti-tank mine left over from the Soviet occupation of the 1980s, was big enough to destroy British armoured vehicles.Its explosion late last week sent shock waves through the FOB.

Major Murchison said: "It was what you would describe as an own goal."

Roadside bombs and mines have claimed several British lives in Afghanistan. Forty-four UK servicemen have died there since 2001, more than in the first Gulf War.

Category: US-NATO, Drugs, Corruption - Views: 17148


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