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ANP in Helmand: “Yeah, they’ve got the training…but they just can’t be arsed…”

March 5, 2012

Having a laugh...

I was in London all last week and caught an episode on Channel Five’s TV documentary, “Royal Marines: Mission Afghanistan”, filmed in 2011.  It was a programme about the latest Royal Marines (RM) rotation in Helmand province, where they seemed to be very closely involved in partnering with the Afghan National Police (ANP) as the ANP prepares itself to take over security responsibility in the province.  

The title quote comes from a hard-working but very frustrated RM Corporal as he and his team of marines attempt – with only limited success – to coax and cajole a group of ANP into undertaking a basic security operation, i.e. to visit a compound and search it.  The ANP bicker and moan and above all, show no sense of responsibility or initiative for the security of their own country, constantly demanding that the British Marines to go first, take the lead, and essentially accomplish all the tasks of this “joint” mission.  That day’s mission was achieved, but only because the ISAF troops were standing all over the ANP, pushing and encouraging.  Small wonder, I guess, that the international military effort in Afghanistan prefers generally to trumpet the increase in numbers rather the increase in individual skills.

And I guess the clue to the problem is the fact that this is Afghan police being mentored by heavily armed ISAF soldiers, suggesting two things:

a) that it is still way too dangerous for unarmed UK police to accompany and mentor the ANP
b) that the ANP are being trained to be little more than be soldiers

By coincidence, I met a British police officer last week who had been in Afghanistan last year while the RM documentary was being filmed.  He confirmed the frustrations and difficulties in training the ANP.  And it seems that the UK police contingent had specifically not been seen in this programme because they were rarely, if at all, allowed “outside the wire” because the security situation was not “permissive” enough.

The ANP are being trained to fight insurgents, not to undertake community policing.

One of the best summaries of the problem still comes from David Kilcullen, back in 2009:

We have built the police into a less well-armed, less well-trained version of the Army and launched them into operations against the insurgents. Meanwhile, nobody is doing the job of actual policing – rule of law, keeping the population safe…civil and criminal law enforcement…the Taliban have stepped into this gap

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