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Mar-22-2010 01:02printcommentsVideo

Who is to Blame for Afghan National Police Problems?

Problems in the ANP date to the second Bush Administration, when the Iraq war was launched and the Afghan war was forgotten.

Afghan National Police officer in Kabul
Afghan National Police officer in Kabul photo by Tim King

(SALEM, Ore.) - A news group called ProPublica published a story last week that blames the Afghan National Police for not being effective after the U.S. supposedly, according to their article, "spent more than $6 billion since 2002 in an effort to create an effective Afghan police force, buying weapons, building police academies, and hiring defense contractors to train the recruits—but the program has been a disaster."

Six billion dollars? No way guys, that is counting all of the ridiculous unaccounted for money spent on U.S. contractors, DynCorp International in particular, which the article reveals a few paragraphs down. DynaCorp is the source of all of the financial problems, not the Afghans. The Afghan National Police have been given next to nothing.

In the article, $6 Billion Later, Afghan Cops Aren’t Ready to Serve, Obama's name is mentioned over and over and there is no mention of George 'W' Bush who is 100% responsible along with his cabinet, for the mess in this remote Asian country[1].

The article implies that all of the current problems are just being discovered, which is blatantly incorrect.

It neglects to mention the fact that as soon as the Afghanistan operation was underway, plans were being laid by the Bush Administration's short-sighted tacticians to invade and attack Iraq - a nation which had not lifted a solitary finger against the U.S.

So this Bush strategy stripped the war in Afghanistan of any hope of real initial success. Yet I saw and heard the relief from the residents of Kabul over the defeat of the Taliban. Of course they aren't really gone, not even from Kabul. The fear they cast into the hearts of the Afghan people had greatly dissipated by 2006 when I arrived to cover the war, but even then they weren't completely gone[2].

Tim King's report on the ANP from Kabul includes night patrol with ANP & US Army

I don't know about Iraq, I covered that war in 2008 for four weeks, but I do know in Afghanistan, there was a real chance for success early on - if the U.S. government hadn't been sidetracked with a second bloody war.

Bush, Cheney, Rove, Republicans, those who support war as a business concept, yet enacted rules that led to veterans suffering in homeless shelters after serving their nation in combat; those are the people responsible for the mess in tribal Afghanistan.

In fact, they had the ball for a little while, but the problems Bush thrust the United States into the middle of were in third gear before our first bomb landed; before the U.S. attacked Taliban strongholds in late 2001. Afghanistan had been at war for three generations and anyone who has seen the movie "Charlie Wilson's War", knows that western influence had a real foothold at that point[3].

But our leaders, along with those in Pakistan and Israel - other countries that helped the Afghan Mujahideen conquer the invading Soviet Army - turned their backs on Afghanistan as soon as the fighting was over in 1989.

Today, with what they have to work with, it is hard for the Afghans to have an adequate police force when they are paid a little less than squat. I talked to ANP officers in 2006 and 2007 who begged for international attention to their plight. They made the equivalent of $70 a month, and the price of flour alone has skyrocketed since then.

ANP officer on patrol with U.S. soldier

They literally did not make enough to pay for the food on their family's table. They said the Taliban paid more, it was terrible to hear. They had no body armor and no gloves. They asked for my gloves, it was very sad.

The article by ProPublica states that, "More than $322 million worth of invoices for police training were approved even though the funds were poorly accounted for, according to a government audit, and fewer than 12 percent of the country's police units are capable of operating on their own."

Again, the whole time without any question, the United States government has known what the situation was like on the ground there. I reported it from Afghanistan; I am not the only reporter who did so. As you can see in my video included with this report, the words came via an interpreter, from the Afghan police themselves.

Members of The State Department read this site every day. There is no secret about how poorly we have funded and maintained the ANP. I mingled with officers in Kabul in particular, the national capitol, and they were terribly underfunded there. I can only imagine how bad it must have been in many rural and disconnected places that I did not see. I have written about this several times since then[4}.

Americans & ANP officers before patrol

There was huge desire on the part of American and Coalition forces to help the Afghan people when I was in this country, but they were extremely limited. I discussed Maslow's hiearchy of needs before in relation to all of this, and can think of very few instances in which it is more applicable... People have to be able to meet their basic needs in order to function. People can only reach out to help others from the vantage point of safe personal, solid ground[5].

If there is any hope in Afghanistan, it will come through massive economic stimulation, and the cutting of red tape. Politicians who don't want to see U.S. resources used to win the hearts and minds of these people, should be the subject of massive protests. It is the only way, it is not weak, and I personally hate hearing people state that it is, knowing what I do.

Even the Afghan Children's Fund was quickly eliminated by the Bush Administration. I guess they figured the Afghan kids had received enough U.S. generosity back in 2005.

Blame Bush, blame the contractors, blame the Afghan government to an extent... there is terrible corruption; but don't blame the uneducated people of this nation who are expected to smoothly transition into this deadly profession without any trouble. Most Americans have absolutely no idea how difficult life is for people in Afghanistan.

Extended Video with Afghan National Police explains in detail how difficult it is for
these officers to make ends meet with terrible pay and rising costs. They lack many basic necessities.

I am loaded with criticism for Barack Obama's role as U.S. President, but he inherited these awful wars and at least he had the brains to wind down Iraq to a large degree, although people keep dying there.

Soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan during all of the heavy years in Iraq, felt ignored and forgotten. There were few extra resources - everything was in Iraq. And while the American forces and resources were strained, companies like Haliburton and DynCorp International were making bank, thanks to Dick and George.

My biggest problem with the story is the title; it implies that investing in Afghanistan is a risk, and that is wrong. It is our mess, if we ever want out we will have to do much more for the Afghans and less for the fat, greedy, corrupt and wasteful American contractors.

The article does detail the financial mess that DynCorp now has as a matter of extensive public record. There are billions of dollars in dispute, but they continue to train the Afghan police. Almost from the beginning, the group talked about the extreme difficulty in working with recruits who for the most part, had never set foot in a classroom. The new elite police force in Afghanistan, which numbers 4900, requires a third-grade education as a prerequisite.

But now there is a new answer for training these very raw Afghan recruits. A team of 35 Italian carabinieri recently arrived in Kabul to supplement DynCorp's efforts. I have heard from one already, asking questions about Kabul and police; I am trying to make as many connections as I can for this individual. I sense a genuine sense of knowledge and caring from the little I have heard about the Italian mission, but they should be able to offer a whole different level of help.

One area where the Italians have already seen great results, is on the firing range. Their program takes an Afghan Police recruit from hitting targets at very close distance, and gradually expands the distance. One recruit group under training referenced in the ProPublica article, had advanced to the 50-meter line, with all shooters hitting their targets.

It is hard to blame the Afghans for anything. They have had excessive hardship for too many years. Far too many live miserable, prehistoric-style lives, and if we had simply raised the salaries of the ANP and the Afghan National Army realistically from the beginning, the loyalty would have been stronger. If the U.S. can focus on helping the Afghan infrastructure, then there is at least a chance for some kind of balance. There is no question that the violence is continuing. There is a high price to pay for destroying an already ravished nation. There is a much higher price involved in restoring it to a realistic level of functionality.

[1] Mar-20-2010: $6 Billion Later, Afghan Cops Aren’t Ready to Serve

[2] Dec-30-2006: Afghanistan National Police: An Exercise in Survival (VIDEO) - Tim King, in Afghanistan, for

[3] Apr-28-2008: One Billion Dollars Allowed Afghan Rebels to Defeat the Soviets - Political Commentary by Tim King

[4] Mar-01-2009: Unemployment & Low Pay in Afghanistan & Iraq Bolster Insurgency - Tim King

[5] Dec-03-2009: Afghanistan and Obama's Point of No Return - Tim King

Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.

Tim holds numerous awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), first place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. You can send Tim an email at this address:

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