Leadership: Creating Officers in Afghanistan

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November 15, 2005: One of the most critical problems in developing effective military and security forces in Afghanistan has been that of providing properly trained and professional officers. At present, most of the officers in the army and national police are a mixed bag of mujahadeen veterans, younger sons of tribal leaders, and even a few leftovers from the pro-Soviet Afghan forces from the ‘80s. While most of them have proved pretty capable combat commanders, given their long experience, they generally lack a formal professional education. They often lack training in administrative and technical matters, financial management, law, ethics, and many other subjects that go toward making a rounded professional. This is beginning to change.


With the help of the German national police, in 2002 the Afghan government established the Kabul Police Academy, a three year program to train junior officers for the new National Police. A small class of 41 sarans - lieutenants - was graduated in January of 2005, and this August the first full class was graduated, 210 men who had completed some 3,400 hours of classroom work in topics ranging from criminal investigations and the social sciences to police procedure and operations, plus a heavy does of physical training, marksmanship, and field tactics. Beginning next year, the program will be graduating between 400 and 500 new sarans each year, which will provide the National Police with a cadre of properly trained officers who will further the professionalization of the force.


In addition to these new officers, the German-supervised program has trained some 7,500 NCOs for the National Police, who completed a one year course either at the Kabul Academy or one of several regional training centers, which also provide basic training for police enlistees..
The development of a formal training program for officers for the Afghan Army has taken longer. In 2003, working closely with American and other Coalition specialists in officer training, the Afghan National Army imitated plans for a military academy. In late 2004 selection of candidates for the first class began. These 120 young men reported for seven weeks of basic training in February of 2005. Five days after they completed basic, the new National Military Academy was opened with considerable ceremonial, including a high ranking delegation from West Point, where a number of Afghan cadets were admitted in 2004.

The Academy is, not surprisingly, modeled after West Point. It is a four-year, degree-granting institution. Upon graduating, cadets will receive an engineering degree and a commission as a second lieutenant in the Afghan National Army. Once fully operational, the Academy will enroll some 250-300 cadets each year.

While the program to provide professionally trained officers to both the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army holds considerable promise for the future development of those forces, and thus the security of Afghanistan, there are also many problems to be overcome. The new officers will have to work with superiors who often lack professional training, and cling to old habits, such as corruption, cronyism, and nepotism. There are also likely to be ethnic tensions, since many police and army units are locally based, and thus recruited from ethnic groups, or even tribes, which may well differ from those of the new officers. There will undoubtedly be a painful transition as the new officers become more significant in the force.

 


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