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American Forces Press Service

Commander Rates Afghan Army, Police Progress

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 24, 2012 – The Afghan national security forces have made tremendous progress, but still require U.S. aid, instruction and capabilities, said Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John A. Toolan, the commander of the 2nd Marine Division and former commander in Afghanistan’s Regional Command—South West.

Toolan told the Defense Writers’ Group here today that by the end of his command the Afghan security forces were shouldering more of the security burden.

The Afghan army did well in the province, but there weren’t enough of them at the beginning of the year. That changed when the Afghan 215th Corps arrived. But even that was problematic. The 215th Corps did not have many Pashtus -- the largest ethnic group in Regional Command—South West. Part of this was because the people didn’t trust the national army. Another part of it was Taliban intimidation.

Today, more than 15 percent of the 215th Corps is native Pashtu and local men are enlisting.

A scarcity of uniformed police presented another issue for the general. “We weren’t able to bring in a whole lot of police officers at the beginning of the year,” Toolan said. “We relied heavily on the Afghan local police.”

The local police, he said, were the key to success in Marja and Sangin.

“What we don’t want to have is to continue to work through ALP for the next couple of years,” Toolan said. “We want the ALP to morph into the uniformed police.” Working against this is that Afghans in the local police want to stay local. They have no desire even to move to the next town.

The capacity of the uniformed police is picking up, the general said, but while the Afghan army has good credibility among the public, the police do not. “We need to understand the Afghans have a design for the future,” Toolan said. “They have a force lay-down in their minds. Early on, we were trying to use them in places based on our ideas of what was an important district to seize, clear, hold and rebuild.”

But the Afghan army wants to be on the borders protecting the nation as armies are supposed to do. “But we have to be careful because I don’t think the police are entirely ready yet to take full responsibility for the population centers along the Helmand River Valley,” the general said. “The police are the key to success in the province, but they haven’t gotten past being a paramilitary [organization] yet.”

The police need to become beat cops and not military units, Toolan said. They need time to become police who investigate crimes, collect evidence, interview witnesses -- do all the things that police do to establish the rule of law for the benefit of the citizens they protect.

“The challenge for us is to put the training programs into place for the police,” the general said. “From a military perspective, we have taken it pretty far. But we need to start handing it off to the law enforcement professional. Very similar to what we did in Bosnia in 1997, 1998. That’s a model that people are looking at as we head into the Chicago Summit.”

The Afghan security forces “are moving along fine,” Toolan said.

“From a capability perspective,” he added, “we’re good with the army, … and the police need the most work.”

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