U.S. lawmakers have sharply questioned key officials about a new report
that is critical of U.S efforts to develop an effective national police
force in Afghanistan. VOA's Dan Robinson reports from Capitol Hill, the
Defense Department is disputing the report's findings.
report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the investigative
arm of Congress, paints a negative picture of what has been
accomplished in building a new police force for Afghanistan.
some progress has been made in training and equipping Afghanistan's
army and police, the GAO says the United States still lacks detailed
plans and cost estimates for completing and sustaining both forces.
report calls for more clearly defined objectives and a spending plan,
saying that without a capable and self-sustaining army and police,
Afghanistan could again become a safe haven for terrorists.
John Tierney, chairman of a House subcommittee on national security and
foreign affairs, summarizes some key findings:
"There are 433
Afghanistan National Police units," said Congressman Tierney. "Zero are
fully capable, three percent are capable with coalition support, four
percent are only partially capable, 77 percent are not capable at all,
and 68 percent are not formed or not reporting."
Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement,
Ambassador David T. Johnson, says developing Afghanistan's police has
"Afghan capacity is lacking, and we need to
link policing to a viable justice and corrections system," said David
T. Johnson. "Moreover, in some areas, particularly in the South, a
relatively lightly-armed police face heavily-equipped insurgents
resulting in casualty rates three times higher than those of the Afghan
National Army [ANA]."
He puts the figure of Afghan police
trained since 2003 at about 94,000. But while capabilities and
professionalism have improved, he adds, long-term international support
will be required, along with reforms in Afghanistan's judicial system.
Assistant Secretary of Defense for South Asia, Retired Major General
Bobby Wilkes, says the original goal of a professional,
ethnically-balanced police force of 62,000 by the end of 2010 was
revised last year to 82,000, in consultation with the Afghan government
and coalition partners.
However, what he calls a resilient insurgency has increased pressure to build an effective police force.
are the most visible expression of the Afghan populace, of the central
government's writ and strength," said Bobby Wilkes. "The insurgents
recognize this fact and it is no surprise that they are increasingly
targeting the ANP."
Wilkes says Afghan police progress lagged in
part because the United States did not become significantly involved in
police training until 2003, with the Pentagon expanding its role only
in late 2005. Other shortcomings include endemic corruption and an
insufficient number of trainers and mentors.
At the Pentagon, spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department has what he called a bit of a different perspective.
Noting that the Pentagon's own update on progress in Afghanistan has yet to be issued, he said:
respect to the Afghan National Security Force Development Program, we
believe that it's well-reasoned, that it is a successful program that's
building on the Afghan government's capacity to respond to the
insurgency, provide stability and implement the rule of law throughout
Afghanistan," said Bryan Whitman.
Congressman Tierney referred
during the hearing to a Pentagon assessment that only six police units
are partially capable, six capable with coalition support, 296 units
not capable, 57 not formed and not reporting, with additional
pessimistic findings for Afghan border police and counter-narcotics
Bipartisan concern about Afghan police training was
evident in these comments by Republican Christopher Shays and Democrat
SHAYS: "I want to go on record in saying, this is
typical of what we did in the bad years in Iraq. We under-estimated
what we needed for the police and what we needed for security forces."
MORAN: "We have not made Afghanistan a sufficient priority. We have said that time and again, and yet, it doesn't change."
hearing was attended by some Afghanistan political and government
leaders, who were invited by lawmakers to provide input on the question
of Afghanistan's police force.