Blue Line

Blue Line visits EUPOL Afghanistan – Part II

October 8, 2013  By Tom Rataj

1555 words – MR photos: rataj november folder

Blue Line visits EUPOL Afghanistan – Part II

by Tom Rataj

Our trip to witness the official graduation ceremony of the last set of EUPOL-taught students, like so many things in Afghanistan, did not go exactly as planned.


We staying just outside of Kunduz at the huge base of operations for the German army, which still runs combat operations against the Taliban and other insurgents in the north. It’s basically a stand-alone city with a 5.5 km wall running around the inside perimeter.

It was also home to a contingent of 12-18 Canadian and Dutch EUPOL police trainers that delivered mid and upper level police management courses and criminal investigation and forensic training. The GPPT (German Police Project Team) also still worked at Kunduz, delivering entry level courses for officers. All training was done at a facility beside the military base. It has three traditional classrooms, one large and three small indoor scenario rooms and an outdoor scenario space for activities such as traffic stops and outdoor crime scene staging.

Students ranged from 22 to 54 years old with between one and 36 years of service, many with only basic fundamental training and experience. The majority are men, although there are a slowly-increasing number of women entering the system.

The centre had spent thousands of hours training 576 students since 2009, including police, prosecutors, investigators and ‘train-the-trainers’ trainees.

The eight to 20 student classes were taught in the morning in a traditional classroom setting, in English, which was translated into Dari (the language in the east and north) by an interpreter. Students generally had very little formal education, were very eager to learn and often showed up early.

Because of the generally low literacy rate, most students were very visual learners. “Tell them, show them and have them do it,” S/Sgt. Jeff Simpkins from OPP Orillia explained, adding that they are very proud people who want to do really well but don’t always have the skills, abilities and training needed to be effective.

Graduating students often held their certificates over their head at ceremonies, cheering “For God and Country” because they were proud of their accomplishments. Few had ever been formally recognised for any academic or other accomplishments.

Investigative students were taught the basics of fingerprinting, footprint impressions and DNA and how these types of basic forensics don’t lie (like some witnesses might).

RCMP Insp. Greg Laturnus was in charge of the Kunduz EUPOL program when I was there. “The ANP do not lack courage,” he told me. “In fact, there is no police force in the world more courageous… They have and continue to make enormous sacrifices for peace and security.”

Afghan women, he added, “are perhaps the most courageous policewomen in the world.”

The EUPOL-led training was coming to an end; it handed training over to the Afghans instructors it trained in August.

{Graduation day}

Kunduz police chief General Andarabi arrived at the gates for the official graduation ceremony but there was a security protocol misunderstanding. His honour apparently insulted, he went back his office.

The mix up could not be resolved until a few days later so the graduation went on without him. It became a very informal, low key event instead of the grand ceremony originally planned. Trainers handed out laminated certificates and class photos to their students.

As is the Afghan tradition, a large festive meal was held for graduates, instructors and special guests. We dined again on local Afghan food – shish-kabob style grilled chicken, sautéed vegetables, rice and Bolani (a pancake style flatbread stuffed with herbs and vegetables, sealed and deep fried – a local delicacy).

{Strategic objectives}

Kunduz is one of several training facilities which benefitted from Canadian police personnel. The others include Kabul, Herat, Mazar-e Sharif and Bamyan.

In addition to training, much of EUPOL’s work also included mentoring Afghan police at many different levels, reinforcing training and helping managers and supervisors constantly improve their work.

The strategic objectives were to develop the criminal investigation division (CID) capability, develop and operate intelligence led policing (ILP) and develop, manage and operate an effective and efficient police command, control and communications system and structure.


Since tribal elders, without any formal training, manage much of Afghan justice, establishing a structured civilian police based justice system is a huge task. The tribal justice system is a mediation-based model that often focuses on what is best for the village instead of finding and assessing responsibility and meting out punishment. It is fraught with problems, including corruption and lack of consistency. As a result, much criminal activity goes unreported.

One part of EUPOL police training is the rule of law component, which focuses on establishing and managing cooperation between police, prosecutors and judges, something that has been sorely lacking.

It also teaches about establishing anti-corruption processes and protocols. The final rule-of-law piece teaches human rights and gender equality – a really tough sell in a country where these concepts are so unfamiliar.

{Interpreter’s view}

I had the opportunity to join an interview with interpreter Hamasa (not his real name), who worked with EUPOL in the Kunduz centre. Despite the personal dangers he found it a good opportunity and was impressed by the polite, well trained and professional staff.

One of the ongoing problems he cited was the large gap between the civilian population and police because of the ongoing military ‘warrior’ functions of the ANP necessitated by all the Taliban activity.

He translated for courses that dealt with developing cooperation between police and prosecutors, something that did not exist before EUPOL training began. Another course he helped deliver was internal police communications development, something that had also been lacking.

Cultural differences proved to be a challenge at times, which he thought could be addressed by better acquainting giving EUPOL staff with local Afghan cultures and traditions. For example, he noted some took many pictures (as though they were tourists), which offended locals, especially when women were potentially in the shots.

He also witnessed interesting bonding between some EUPOL instructors and students. When the training concluded, both became quite emotional.

Hamasa explained some of the difficulties with justice in Afghanistan; the culture, constitution and sharia law and the informal justice system are often better at finding solutions but doesn’t always have the knowledge to make good decisions.

The Taliban really has nothing to do with Islam, he noted, but is all about economic power and political control. The low literacy rates, poverty and unemployment allows the Taliban to easily recruit new members, although his impression was that it doesn’t have wide-spread support in local communities.

{Canada Day in Kabul}

We headed back to Kabul July 1. Our small Beechcraft 1900D, 19 passenger twin-engine turboprop plane struggled through some unstable air, leaving a few of us a little uncomfortable.

Despite a heightened security level because of suspected suicide bombers, I still managed to make it to Canadian ambassador Glenn Davidson’s residence for the official Canada Day party. Upon return to the GV, I joined a large number of Canadians for an informal party.

{Truck bomb}

I heard and felt a dull thud around 0430 the following morning which sounded like someone falling out of bed or stumbling in the dark.

Over breakfast we were informed that a logistics compound of a NATO contractor 2.5 km away had been attacked. As is quite typical, it began with one charging the heavily fortified gate in an explosives laden truck, which he then detonated.

The initial explosion heavily damaged the gate and killed some of the guards. Several attackers wearing body-born IED’s and armed with automatic weapons then joined in. They both died in the ensuing fire-fight without being able to deploy their IED’s and several additional guards were also killed, raising the final death toll to 12.

{Police staff college}

We headed out again after this bad news, this time for a tour of the police staff college in Kabul. Most of the management training was conducted in a converted building while a new purpose built facility was being completed nearby.

The college runs 40 weeks of training annually and has graduated 5,279 students. A separate crime management college also runs a five-week core-investigator course to train beginner to senior detectives. To date 2,600 students had completed that program.

District commander training was also conducted from 2010 to 2012. It had to be followed-up with training for provincial commanders who didn’t understand all the good ideas and information their subordinates were bringing back! The students come from various backgrounds, including some newly hired officers with university degrees, although usually nothing directly relevant to policing.

Much of the training focused on intelligence lead policing (ILP), command and control processes and procedures, internal communications and ethics training, including a 10-day rule of law component which tries to raise overall system-level integrity and reduce corruption.

Many existing procedures and command and control structures are still based on Russian standards that often include more than 10 levels. EUPOL worked to strip this down to a more manageable and efficient three level system.

Management trainees were also trained on courtroom procedures and standard operating procedures to help guide them from crime scene through court. This included table-top exercises and mock trials.

{Next month}

More on education, female officers, police districts, head of mission and corruption.

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