Army Training, Suh!

By Steve Saideman

NATO operations in Afghanistan are a complex exercise in cooperation and shared responsibility. Members of the ISAF not only divvied the country into different areas of operation, but also created functional division of responsibilities as well. The Germans got policing, the British counter-narcotics, and the Italians judicial reform — yeah, incredibly problematic and more than just a bit funny, that last one.

Anyway, the Germans were poorly suited to the police training role for several reasons, but particularly because of two key restrictions: their army and police were not allowed to cooperate much due to historical reasons, and German troops faced geographic limits on where the could operate. So, other than Kabul, training Afghan police could only take place on German bases in RC-North (I could be slightly wrong here, but I am basing this on interviews with Germany Interior Ministry folks as well as others who experienced/observed some of this).

Eventually, the US took over the role and poured a heap of resources into it. But it led to a perception I don’t think was accurate: that police training was just a few years behind training the Afghan National Army, illustrated thusly:

* I hereby demonstrate why I did not major in graphic arts
I hereby demonstrate why I did not major in graphic arts

The green line on the left represents Afghan National Army (ANA) training, the blue line on the right Afghan National Police (ANP). The basic idea is that both training efforts have the same trajectory, with ANP training simply delayed. The problem with this perception is that training police may be fundamentally and inherently more difficult than army training. Police must perform a wide variety of tasks, need to be deeply engaged with local populations, face constant temptation to exploit those that they should be protecting and serving, and so on. While being a member of an army unit also has its own challenges, most enlisted troops have fewer skills to master, local knowledge and engagement is less important (again, for the enlisted folks), and so on. So, I would expect the comparison between the ANA and ANP training to look more like this:


The basic point here is that we cannot simply blame the Germans for delaying ANP training, nor should we expect police training to progress at the same rate as army training (if a few years behind). Of course, this all assumes that training the ANA itself has been proceeding swell, an unreasonable assumption — army training can only be done overnight in the movies:


This piece was originally posted on the author’s personal blog.

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