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Dec 11

Written by: Diana West
Friday, December 11, 2009 8:02 AM 

This AP picture pretty much says it all but just to make sure, let's read the original caption:

In this picture taken Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009, an Afghan police trainee from the United States Marine police mentoring program eats a lollipop as Marines search a house that was thought to have explosives during a joint patrol in Khan Neshin, in the volatile Helmand province of southern Afghanistan....

Insert primal scream.

From the story:

KHAN NESHIN, Afghanistan— The U.S. Marines were tense looking for bombs buried near a mud compound in this remote farming town in southern Afghanistan. Their new Afghan police colleagues were little help, joking around and sucking on lollipops meant for local kids.

The government had sent the new group of 13 police to live and train with the Marines just a few days earlier. Most were illiterate young farmers with no formal training who had been plucked off the streets only weeks before.

Building a capable police force is one of the keys to President Barack Obama's new Afghan strategy.


U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates met with Afghan President Karzai in Kabul on Tuesday to discuss how to recruit more Afghan police to meet Washington's goal of expanding the force from about 94,000 today to 160,000 by 2013.

Easy. Just promise All Day Suckers all around (the candy, not the policy-makers).

The Marines' experience in Khan Neshin, once a key Taliban stronghold in volatile Helmand province, shows just how difficult the task will be.

The provincial government fired the last group of police assigned to Khan Neshin after more than half of them failed a drug test, prompting them to rebel by throwing rocks at the Marines. When the police weren't smoking drugs, Afghans complained they were taking goods from the bazaar without paying.

"The guys who were here last time put a bad taste in people's mouths by being typical of what people think of the Afghan National Police," said Gunnery Sgt. Randy Scifo, a military policeman from the 1st Marine Division who recently took over responsibility for the police in Khan Neshin.

Scifo said he was surprised the new group showed up without any training, but the police academy on a coalition base near the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah was full. The Marines expect to receive more than 20 graduates from the school toward the end of the month and will send this new group to the academy in January. Until then, they are not allowed to carry weapons....


NATO hopes a well-trained Afghan force will be more effective than international soldiers in winning local trust so that the Taliban cannot return to areas cleared by the coalition ....

That could be a daunting task, according to a recent report by the United States Institute of Peace. It said the dramatic growth in the size of the Afghan police force over the past few years has not been coupled with an increase in quality.

Ya think?

"Despite the impressive growth in numbers, the expenditure of $10 billion in international police assistance, and the involvement of the United States, the European Union, and multiple donors, the ANP is riddled with corruption and generally unable to protect Afghan citizens, control crime, or deal with the growing insurgency," said the report.

Scifo said eventually he would like to push the graduates who come to Khan Neshin out to some of the more remote patrol bases where the Taliban are active. But he is not sure whether that will happen during the seven months he is in the country because he doesn't know how capable the recruits will be.

"It's not like I'm ordering from Dominos Pizza and getting exactly what I want," said Scifo.



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