Thursday, 17 February 2011
The damning report, from the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Development Policy sub committee of 12 peers, chaired by Lord Teverson and including former Chief of the Defence Staff, Field Marshall Lord Inge, notes only about 285 experts had been sent by member states to train the Afghan National Police - well short of the 400 requested.
This "compared badly to the American and NATO commitment to the broader police training effort", it adds, and was already substantially below the numbers needed.
Afghanistan's police have no tradition of investigation and are often seen by ordinary citizens as predators who exist largely by extracting bribes and other forms of corruption. Up to 40% in some regional forces have been exposed as habitual users of heroin or marijuana.
But the withdrawal timetable hangs on the allied efforts to train the Afghan National Army and the police to a level at which they can maintain security - and the rule of central government - after a substantial reduction in foreign troops.
"Let's at least get up to the staffing level that we promised Afghanistan," committee chairman Lord Teverson said. "Then may be we have got a chance of fulfilling at least part of the mission. If we cannot do that then I think we should even question whether we should be there through to 2013 when the mission is supposed to end."
Police training has always been the most problematic areas in Afghanistan. Unlike the NATO programme, which is more about guarding installations, the Eu Programme is about improving police detection and solving of crimes. However, problems are dire, with the Afghan police experiencing an attrition rate of around 75 per cent in some areas. Illiteracy of police recruits is as high as 70 per cent.
Until 2009 the US, NATO and the EU ran separate programmes - and many contributing nations still have training missions which are separate from other efforts. The EU programme, known as EUPOL, is still outside of the NATO structures.
The peers said this endangered the lives of staff members who, for example, are not allowed to travel in vehicles which were not supplied by the EU. "This is not just inefficient, it is clearly unacceptable," the report states. Britain contributes about 14 officers to the EU effort and many more through NATO.
British ministers have been keen to stress that the training of the police and army has been going well. But the Lords' report observes that "great stress is laid by the NATO-led coalition on the number of police, rather than quality (as is also true for army training). Training courses tend to be short (six weeks) and emphasise the need to meet numerical targets... Six weeks of training is not enough."
They note that military withdrawal is likely to take place in 2014, but say that police training could take five to ten years longer than that. "There must be a question—and perhaps more
than a question—whether the arrangements associated with the deadlines for military withdrawal could render EUPOL ineffective and will risk the lives of serving police officers for no future effect."
The report concludes: "This has been a troubled mission undertaking a vital task in the reconstruction of Afghanistan. Despite achieving local successes, overall there is a strong risk of failure."