Is the EU Right on Police?

by Joshua Foust on 3/30/2009

While I’ll never argue with Foreign Policy advocating for more police in Afghanistan, what the crap is this?

In Afghanistan, police need to be out walking the beat, rather than serving as military auxiliaries fighting the Taliban. Crime has undermined public support for the state and makes some Afghans hanker for the brutal, but more predictable, days of the Taliban. Kidnappings of prominent businessmen — thought to occur with the complicity of police — are driving away desperately needed capital. The police can still do counterinsurgency work in a law enforcement role. In fact, they’ll do it better. Building connections to the communities they are supposed to serve would boost intelligence capabilities and foster crucial support for an unpopular government.

Oh right, that’s Robert Templer writing about the desperate need for a competent police force in countries at risk for extremism—including Afghanistan. Templer and I have had our differences in the past, but he is absolutely right in advocating for the desperate need for more, and better trained, police in most of the developing world (including, let it be said, Pakistan).

What I’m not certain about is the specific police needs of Afghanistan. The Police there, by necessity and partially by design, actually serve a vital counterinsurgency role as first responders, ground holders, and occasionally raiding parties in addition to the normal “beat walking” of a regular police force. As I’ve been noting for a while (see here for example) there are a lot of issues relating to the mission types and density of the ANP. There is a legitimate argument to be made that the Police should not serve in an offensive capacity in the country; the problem is, since security forces are so sparse, the police must step in to fill the gap.

But such concerns are quibbles. Before bragging about Europe’s efforts at the police, though, we should perhaps remember that the EU can barely even start fulfilling its current commitment, to say nothing of doubling (or Octupling!) the effort.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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