Afghan Police Training Will Take Time, General Says

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2010 - Some of Afghanistan's biggest threats come or seem to come from within. To help the country solve internal problems, coalition officials are employing lessons from the best national police departments around the world.

Brig. Gen. Carmelo Burgio of the Italian army is in charge of police training for NATO Training Mission Afghanistan and Combined Security Transition Command Afghanistan. During a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable yesterday, he spoke about recent improvements in training for the Afghan National Police, especially in developing leaders.

This year, Burgio said, his organization has started courses for noncommissioned and commissioned officers and has taken steps to open the Afghan National Police Staff College.

"We developed the first seminar for police commanders in August, and by the end of September, we will start some courses for company commanders and staff officers at the battalion level," Burgio said. "And by the end of December, we will start the first staff courses for the Afghan national police."

Among the courses offered to Afghan police are driving courses, anti-corruption classes and gender-issues seminars to help in combating sexual abuse and integrating women who want to serve Afghanistan into the force.

"We were able to develop two cycles of seminars about gender issues -- domestic violence, sexual abuse, women integration in the police -- in April and in August," he said. "And we have a program to develop these courses in December and in the next year."

Burgio said different classes are offered only a few times each year because the focus in training police isn't to rush a lot of trainees through a classroom, but rather to teach leaders how to run a police force as best they can.

"So it means that we are not focusing on quantity, because we strongly believe that quality affects quantity," he said. "If you want to achieve a big number of patrolmen, a big number of policemen, we have to pay them better, we have to train them better, we have to keep them better."

The original approach when the training mission stood up was to update the police training plan that already was in place in Afghanistan, managed by a smattering of nations working semi-independently, Burgio said. The philosophy was that every stakeholder trained what they liked to train, he added.

"We started to find out what the Afghans need to learn," Burgio said. "And in this country, they are policemen, but they are also the so-called 'peace target.' We have to think that for every Afghan National Army soldier killed, we have three or four policemen killed. For this reason, we train them as policemen, but we also provide them some specific survival capability skills."

But police aren't trained as ad hoc soldiers, the general said.

"We don't want to militarize the police," he explained. "We want to make a realistic approach to the training, so the training consists of the so-called 'blue part,' the police skills, and the 'green part,'" Burgio said. "The green part means that we train them how to shoot, how to react to an ambush, how to create a defensive perimeter, how to defend or how to attack a small position, how to defend a checkpoint, etc."

Burgio said what the Afghan police need most is time. More trainers are coming to help, he added, including Canadian and Jordanian police and more Carabinieri from Italy and gendarmes from France. But the central element to any force's development, he emphasized, is time for growth.

"I spent some years in Italy as a provincial commander in a particular area in which organized crime is very strong," he said. "And I always say to my bosses, to my commander, 'We need time. We cannot solve this problem in one year.'

"We cannot solve this problem in one month, because the main challenge is the changing of the mindset," he continued. "Changing the mindset means working for years."

"If the international community will be able to push in the same direction for years," Burgio said, "we could achieve some results."

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