BBC News, May 21, 2011

Afghan police were “rotten to the core”

"There are still issues with drug-use within the police"

By Gerry Holt

During the inquest into the murders of five British soldiers by a rogue Afghan policeman, a disturbing picture emerged of the way the Afghan National Police (ANP) operated with British troops.

Among the British soldiers' roles was to train and mentor many of the men, but it became clear from the outset of the inquest that they were shown little respect.

Afghan police is highly corrupt
Afghan police is "rotten to the core" according to British mentor. (Photo:

Local police were portrayed as lacking in any sense of discipline and would often swear in Pashto at their British colleagues.

Drug-taking was rife among the poorly-paid ANP, and many local police were open to corruption, the inquest heard.

The officers' drugs of choice were opium or cannabis and it was commonplace for them to smoke during working hours.

"There is a culture that the smoking of opium or cannabis is, to them, like to us the smoking of cigarettes," coroner David Ridley told the inquest.

'Endemic problems'

One Afghan interpreter said at the time of the shootings the ANP was beset with "endemic and deep-rooted problems".

But Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Walker went a step further and attacked the ANP as "rotten to the core".

On Friday verdicts of unlawful killing were recorded on the five soldiers who were attacked they chatted and drank tea with their Afghan colleagues in 2009.

The gunman, named only as Gulbuddin, escaped after firing on the troops with an AK-47 machine gun, injuring six more Britons and two Afghan policemen.

During the inquest it emerged the killer had been a cannabis user - on one occasion, the inquest heard, he had smoked so much cannabis he could "barely walk straight".

But it was said there was no evidence he had been under the influence of drugs at the time of the attack.

Gulbuddin was often insubordinate, would not wear the correct uniform and while on patrol would show a lack of discipline, it was said.

It became clear during the inquest that some British soldiers had concerns about the way some members of the ANP behaved.

"I didn't trust them. I can't explain why I could not trust them, it was just a feeling I could not suppress," said Lance Corporal Peniasi Namarua, who was badly injured in the incident.

Brigadier James Cowan Cowan, the then senior British commander in Helmand, described the killings at Checkpoint Blue 25 as by far the most shocking incident of his tour of the country.

Random drugs tests

But he said their deaths had given him the leverage to get the Afghan authorities to overhaul the ANP.

BBC Defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt said British trainers had faced many challenges in producing an Afghan police force that was reliable and trustworthy and much work remained to be done.

"There are still issues with drug-use within the police," she said.

"Although drug addicts - in particular those using heroin or opium - are not allowed to join the police, 10% of Afghan police tested positive last year for drug use under random drugs tests.

"The main drug used was cannabis."

She said a literacy programme for police recruits had helped address wider issues, including fighting corruption within the police.

"There is no doubt that progress has been made," she said.

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