Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Police casualties high due to lack of training, equipment

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KABUL, 12 June 2007 (IRIN) - Under-equipped and poorly trained Afghan police are paying a high price in their fight against an intensifying armed insurgency.

In the last three months alone, over 210 police officers have been killed and 330 wounded, according to Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior (MoI). In such circumstances it is difficult for humanitarian aid workers to feel secure as they go about their jobs.

Afghanistan has one of the highest police casualty rates in the world, Zemarai Bashari, a spokesman for MoI, told IRIN in Kabul, on 12 June.

A large number of attacks on police occur in the volatile south and southeast of the country where Taliban insurgents have been hindering rebuilding and development efforts and have indiscriminately used force against whomever they perceive as an enemy.

"They [the police] are increasingly coming under attack," Bashari said.

In the latest attack on 9 June, the head of a police-training centre in Kandahar Province was shot dead by gunmen associated with the Taliban, according to a government press release.

In another incident, 16 police officers were killed by Taliban fighters in Kandahar's neighbouring province of Zabul in late May, government officials said.

Recently, Taliban insurgents reportedly started targeting the families of police officers.

On 1 June, gunmen attacked the house of a senior police official in eastern Ghazni Province killing all five members of his family, the media reported.

Poorly-equipped

The 62,000-strong, but poorly-equipped, Afghan police force fights insurgents, tries to keep law and order throughout the country, and implements an extensive counter-narcotics strategy.

"We do not have a single helicopter to undertake emergency operations," Bashari said, adding: "We lost a post to the enemy in Helmand Province only because we could not supply our surrounded troops by air".

Abdul Sattar, a police officer in Lashkargah, capital of the insurgency-hit Helmand Province in the south, said his 1980 Russian made AK-47 had stopped working over a month ago.

"It is only a symbol of a gun, but only we [police soldiers] know about this," said Sattar.

Government officials in Kabul have urged the US military and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to provide the Afghan police with new light and heavy weapons.

"Our enemies attack with RPGs [rocket propelled grenades], missiles and other sophisticated weaponry, while our police defend themselves only with old Kalashnikovs," a MoI official who did not want to be identified said.

Low salaries

Afghan police receive an average monthly payment of US$70 through a Law and Order Trust Fund (LOTFA) funded by international donors.

"It is very difficult to find a professional police officer who will risk his or her life for only 70 dollars a month - the Taliban pay their fighters at least $200," Gen Sideequllah Rahmani, a senior police official said.

Afghan officials say they have asked many donors to increase police pay to at least $100 a month, but donors have shown little interest.

Poorly trained

Afghanistan has prioritised the establishment of a police force with a planned strength of 80,000. Over 80 percent of its targeted numbers have now been achieved but most police have only had one to two weeks training, MoI said.

According to Bashari, inadequate professional knowledge is one of the reasons why Afghan police have a high causality rate.

In the last four years German, American and some other countries have contributed to the training of the new Afghan National Police (ANP).

The European Union has agreed to a police-training project for Afghanistan which will bring more than 160 international trainers to "train, mentor, monitor and advise" Afghan police for a period of three years starting from 17 June.

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