Kandahar, Afghanistan—High centered, surrounded on both sides by open air sewage ditches is a dusty Afghan Police Checkpoint. I mean ‘checkpoint’ only in the loosest of terms, as the Afghans put it together. A few sand bags here and there with a bright pink lawn chair in the center, the police stand totally unprotected.
If they ever did their job that is.
My squad’s patrol crawls by under the hot Kandahar sun, when they see us the Police jump up off their flamboyantly colored lawn chair and start searching random fields and anyone who is misfortunate enough to be close by. Their checkpoint commander rushes out and tries to look as professional as his ill-fitting uniform and bare feet allow him to look.
“Hello!” he calls out, trying to act like we are disturbing his work. Our interpreter walks over to him and starts small talk while the tired, sun burned soldiers spread out along nearby builds and canals to set up sectors of fire. The Police look at us like we are aliens, we have been here ten years and still they have no idea how to secure their own area.
Soldiers from my squad move up further down the road to screen cars as they pass, further ahead of them we force a few Afghan Policemen to search cars. The idea is to trick the locals into thinking the Police give a damn about their security and well being. Normally when we first get there they search cars and trucks so well they would make the airport security in the US look tame.
Slowly as the sun starts to beat down on them, or as they get bored, it fades away. Soon they are sitting in the shade drinking tea watching us do their job. My squad leader sees us manhandling the locals making sure a suicide bomber doesn’t slip through and kill everyone behind us.
“What the hell? Why are you just sitting there?” He screams at them, they briefly look up from their tea party in the grass before going back to doing nothing. Our interpreter starts yelling at them in Pashto, whatever he says works and they are back out in the road.
They’re hard work pays off as they start stealing money from the people they search. When we notice we stop and ask if the Police robbed them. They deny it over and over again, fearing brutal beatings from the Police that are common place.
Before long we get so pissed off at their attitude we get up and leave the area, leaving the Afghan Police to go to sleep or whatever it is they do when we’re not around.
Its common knowledge that checkpoint commanders put in place in these remote places run their Policemen like the mafia rather than any Police force anyone has ever seen. Running protection rackets, stealing and robbing, and of course being bought by the Taliban. ISAF commanders all turn a blind eye in the guise of a ‘means to an end’.
But how long can you turn a blind eye to such a massive problem? If ISAF could not train, mentor, and create a effective force in ten years, what hope do they have to correct the massive failure that is the Afghan National Police before 2014? How can a force that cannot secure its own ranks from Taliban infiltration hope to secure a place like Kandahar, a providence thousands of US soldiers have failed to secure.
These are not failures of the hard working US Soldier, but failures that fall squarely on the Afghan people themselves. Soldiers work day in and day out trying to secure the area they are charged with patrolling. The Afghans have to fight to succeed, something they seem to want nothing to do with.
They would rather sit on their ass drinking tea stockpiling international aide then going out and doing their jobs. When will it be time to step back and make them own up to their failures and better themselves?