Afghanistan: Families of killed police lack support

Report
from IRIN
Published on 13 Aug 2008
KABUL, 13 August 2008 (IRIN) - The Afghan police are suffering increasing casualties as the violence intensifies, but the families of killed or injured police officers get little, if any, financial support from the government.

Safiullah's father, a police officer, was shot dead during an attack on a police patrol in February in the outskirts of Kandahar city. The 10-year-old boy and his mother have faced great hardship since they lost the family's breadwinner.

Officials at the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said efforts were under way to establish a welfare system for the families of killed police officers, but the planned US$65 a month compensation would not be enough to meet the needs of a four-member household.

Safiullah's family has still not received a "sympathy payment" of $1,500, which President Karzai has ordered for the families of every police officer or soldier killed in action.

The Afghan National Police are financially supported by about 25 countries and several international organisations.

Saeed Mohammad Golabzoy, a National Assembly member and former interior minister, has called for more investment in the police and army, and better provision for the families of police or soldiers killed in action.

"The government and its international backers must ensure that after the death of any police officer his children have access to education, his family has shelter, and his dependants don't become destitute," Golabzoy said.

High casualty rate

At least 600 police have been killed and over 800 injured by the Taliban or criminal gangs in the past four months, the MoI reported. The figures are a marked increase on last year when a total of 1,019 police deaths were reported country-wide.

"The high number of police casualties implies they lack adequate protection, do not have access to the necessary resources and are very vulnerable to attack," Zemarai Bashari, a MoI spokesman, told IRIN in Kabul on 11 August, adding that most casualties were the result of armed ambushes, roadside explosions or suicide attacks.

Few resources

Officials say the police lack resources. For example, the 80,000-strong police force under the MoI does not have a single helicopter. The government was unable to assist a besieged police post in Nooristan Province in August because the MoI did not have a helicopter, Bashari said.

"Wounded police are frequently left. in remote areas because we do not have the means to evacuate them," Bashari said.

"We need helicopters, we need armoured vehicles, we need better training and we need improved capacity in order to face the existing challenges," the MoI spokesman said, adding: "The police will not be able to continue the struggle unless their capacity is improved."

Police reform

The police - most of whom are illiterate and lack professional training - have been accused of corruption, harassment and incompetence, and the MoI itself was in urgent need of reform, according to a July 2007 report by the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU).

"A major failure of reform efforts over the past five years has been the lack of political will to proceed beyond recognising and talking about the problem of a corrupt, factionalised and criminalised MoI," said the report entitled Cops or Robbers? The Struggle to Reform the Afghan National Police http://www.areu.org.af/index.php?option=com_docman&Itemid=&task=doc_download&gid=523.

"Donors should make their assistance more conditional on comprehensive top-down reform of the MoI, without which their contributions towards police reform efforts are likely to be wasted," it added.

A fundamental dilemma for the police - and those who fund them - is the extent to which they should be playing a counter-insurgency role, the AREU report noted.

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