Kabul II

October 26, 2018

The reason for the presence of the American advisors, as I mentioned previously, was to work hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Interior to professionalize the Afghanistan National Police (ANP) and build them up from a force of 15,000 officers to 35,000. In the process we were to instill in them democratic policing principles, i.e., rule of law, civil rights, gender equality, etc.

 

Let's just say we didn't quite get there.

 

Look, it's Afghanistan. They've been at war with each other for thousands of years; children learn how to shoot and field strip an AK-47 before they can read and write (if they learn how to read and write); the people have tribal allegiances that have nothing to do with democracy and never will; on top of that, eighty percent of the police force could not read or write.

 

I've said it before and I will say it again: you cannot dispense democracy out the end of a gun barrel. We tried it in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and a variety of other countries without success.

 

Just because Americans have a way of life that we enjoy does not mean that everyone else wants the same or can function with it in a manner conducive to societal accord. Some countries need dictatorships or monarchies (hopefully benevolent, but not usually) because that's the way it's been for centuries and it's what the denizen understand, are used to living under, and, in many instances, willing to accept (Arab Spring notwithstanding). Trying to cram democracy down their throats because it's the medicine that Uncle Sam deems best for them does not equate to happiness or political stability.

 

 That being said, let me back up a little.

 

Prior to deploying, we were blessed with a one-day class on Afghan culture from Dr. Marvin Weinbaum of the University of Illinois. Dr. Weinbaum is a professor emeritus in political science and an expert on south Asia, specifically Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran. He gave us invaluable insight on the people of Afghanistan, knowledge he gained from dedicating a significant portion of his life to living there and studying Afghan culture, customs, and politics.

 

Our knowledge, as police officers, was limited to what we had seen on television: a bombed out country with warring tribes affiliated with either the Taliban or the Northern Alliance. Women wore burkhas and livestock was considered more valuable and certainly treated better. Public floggings and stoning were not uncommon. 

 

Dr. Weinbaum, however, gave us insight, especially into recent history. When he first began traveling to Afghanistan in the 1960's, the city of Kabul was completely different. The country was under the rule of Mohammed Zahir Shah, the last king of Afghanistan, who, along with his wife, and his father before his assassination, was a progressive.

 

Under Shah's rule, the first modern university was founded. He turned Afghanistan into a democratic state, which included a new constitution, parliament, elections, and civil rights. While these activities were centered primarily in Kabul, and had limited effect on the rest of the country, it was, nonetheless, quite a bold achievement (that last sentence is my assessment, not Dr. Weinbaum's, and I based it on readings of the history of the country).

 

In the late 1960's, Dr. Weinbaum told us, Kabul was a thriving city. There were women on the police force, albeit limited to traffic duties, and they would stand on pedestals built at the roundabouts of busy Kabul intersections directing traffic in miniskirts and high heels! Wearing of the hijab was optional. Women owned businesses and were in politics as senators and cabinet-level ministers. They were doctors, scientists, and teachers. There were cinemas, restaurants, and shops selling the latest fashions. It was modern. 

 

I share that information so that the reader realizes that Afghans were not some perpetually primitive, backward, misogynistic society hell-bent on self-destruction and war.

 

Now, back to 2004 and the effort to professionalize the police.

 

Like Kosovo, we started from scratch. Personnel manuals dealing with policy & procedure for the ANP were drawn from whatever available resource existed for the officers assigned to the task. That meant plagiarizing rules & regulations from one's department back home, whether that be a major metropolitan police force, or a small town PD or sheriff's office. Where the name of the local USA department was written, the acronym ANP was substituted.

 

The "mission" started in July 2004, and by the time I arrived in September most of that work had been accomplished. I would later be assigned to command the policy & procedure "pillar" and told to review the manual for functionality and cohesiveness. It was well-written. Those who had authored it had done a superb job.

 

As with Kosovo, the manual was not tailor-made for the ANP, or any special problems they faced; the idea was to get an SOP quickly written as a guideline (and for the State Department to show their bosses back in D.C. that things were moving along nicely). That being said, every document of this type needs to be flexible and subject to change depending on circumstance and needs of the service. If, for example, we look at disciplinary action, the ANP did not write up its officers for violations of rules & regulations, as we would do in the states. They had "police prison" for officers who flaunted the rules, i.e., a supervisor could order a subordinate locked up for any length of time he deemed fit, usually a couple of nights in a cold jail cell with only bread and/or water (if he got food). That practice certainly begged for modification, but the wheels move slowly when addressing practices that have been around for decades (if not centuries).

 

But, my review of ANP SOP and the personnel policy manual would come later.

 

My first assignment was narcotics, serving as an advisor to a man named General Mohammed Daoud Daoud.  

 

More on that in the next post. 

 

 

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