Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Interview with interior minister

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KABUL, 20 March (IRIN) - One of the key challenges facing the Afghan government is ensuring peace and security in a country devastated by over two decades of war. If that challenge is not met, experts warn that international assistance will never have the necessary impact for long-term sustainability. In an interview with IRIN, Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, appointed almost two months ago, shared some of his concerns regarding security in the country, as well as details of efforts to improve it.
QUESTION: Now war in Iraq has started, do you believe security will become more challenging here in Afghanistan?

ANSWER: I don't think so. If you are talking about terrorist activities in the country, the terrorists will hit and strike when they can - they are not connected to certain occasions or events. I don't think there will be a change in terrorist activities in the country. However, some terrorists might use this occasion to recruit young people.

Q: Amnesty International (AI) recently said the Afghan police needed urgent training and that the police themselves were violators of human rights, what's your response?

A: There is no doubt that the training of the police is one of the top priorities of the interior ministry. I agree with Amnesty International that to bring security to Afghanistan, a professional and skilled police force is needed. They should be actively disciplined and have very good relations with the public. People will only cooperate with a trustworthy and credible police force.

Unfortunately, as a result of two and half decades of war, the infrastructure of the police was badly damaged. Indeed, most of the people in the police force now do not have any professional training or experience at all. Nonetheless, they have ensured some semblance of security.

Regarding the Amnesty report, I don't believe the police torture or harass people. This isn't true, as I myself am monitoring rights issues. Of course there are problems, and torture and persecution might exist in some areas, but not to the high extent that it has become a pattern for the whole country.

To ensure that human rights are not violated by police, within the new structure of interior ministry, I have added a human rights office in every police department of the provinces and districts, which will monitor police activities and raise their awareness with regard to human rights.

Q: How challenging is it to train such a large number of police within such a short period of time?

A: It is very challenging. However, with the cooperation and assistance of the international community, we are trying our best to train police officers. We have 1,500 police under training in the police academy, which is supported by Germany.

Soon another training centre, supported by the United States, will train thousands more police officers. Altogether, we expect to train 50,000 police officers within four to five years, using a combination of the old and new police recruits.

Q: Does the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) process have any impact on the police?

A: In fact the DDR is a programme designed to disarm former combatants. However, we have to demobilise some of our forces that are now part of different units of law enforcement and entities in the country.

Q: How concerned are you about conditions within the prison system of the country?

A: I agree that we do not have adequate prisons with good conditions. I should note that soon all prisons and detention centres will be shifted from the interior ministry to the ministry of justice. It [the prisons and detention centres] will be administered and controlled by them.

Q: Heroin production remains very high indeed in Afghanistan, what have the police done to prevent drug trafficking and eradicate poppy cultivation?

A: We have started reforming the border police. They will be equipped with modern facilities as a mobile force to reach remote areas quickly. The border police force is under construction. They will be assigned to control several main entry ports into the country, including the airports. They will also be assigned to control drug trafficking in three major areas along Afghan-Pakistan, Afghan-Iran and Afghan-Tajikistan borders.

As far as poppy eradication is concerned, unless sustainable livelihoods and development projects are created in poppy cultivated areas, it [poppy cultivation] will be difficult to prevent.

Q: What are the main resources that the police forces are in dire need of?

A: Resources such as training, communication and vehicles. These are all needed in order to effectively boost the capacity of the police, given the enormity of the security challenge of the country.

Q: Are you satisfied with the Law and Order Trust Fund allocation for supporting police?

A: It's helped us a lot during the year, but at the same time it's not adequate now. We are trying to encourage the donor countries to increase the police trust fund.

Q: Do you think warlords are still an obstacle in maintaining security?

A: Yes. The warlords are a legacy of many long years of war. In order to overcome this issue, you have to provide security and economic construction, as well as extend the authority of the central government. Therefore, you need to have a national army and national police force. The defence ministry is building the national army. What I am going to do is try to create a national police force, which will be a national oriented, ethnically balanced, professionally skilful and more disciplined police.

Q: Can you say when you will be able to bring security under control all over Afghanistan?

A: It is very hard to fix a time frame on a complicated situation like that in Afghanistan. Security cannot be established without the cooperation of the community. You have to create a condition whereby people can trust the police - and that will be my main challenge.

Q: What is your message to the people?

A: The police cannot do their job without the cooperation of the people. However, I understand that people cooperate with police when they trust them. We hope to establish better relations with the public, because it is they who know the bad guys and the perpetrators of any crimes.

[ENDS]

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