If you missed it this weekend, we co-published a cover story in Newsweek on the State Department's disastrous, $6 billion attempt to create an effective Afghan police force, and how that force is, by the State Department's own admission, "riddled with corruption." If the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is truly focused on winning over the hearts of the Afghan people, the fact that American-trained Afghan cops are in some cases extorting, assaulting and raping the local people does not bode well for the Americans' desire to build up Afghanistan and leave it in good hands.
The piece paints in appropriate nuance several reasons why the State Department--which has contracted with DynCorp International to set up training centers--has thus far failed so dismally:
- Training got off to a very late start. When, earlier this month, President Obama asked his advisers whether the Afghan police will be ready when America begins drawing down its troops in 2011, he learned that for eight years, no one was training the police force.
- They've got a lot of ground to cover. Most recruits are from rural Afghanistan and have few skills and little to no education.
- Training programs are too brief. "It's practically impossible to produce competent police officers in a program of only eight weeks," one ex-DynCorp executive told our reporter. Now the course has been cut to six weeks.
- High turnover in the police forces means they keep having to start over. "Of the 170,000 or so Afghans trained under the program since its inception, only about 30,000 remain on the force," according to officials from the State and Defense Departments.
- Corruption persists. American-trained police continue to sell weapons and ammunition to the Taliban.