Photo: Teddy Wade via Dvidshub
It was an American instructor who took each small group of officers through their practical paces at the police academy, attended by a police officer now serving in Kabul, teaching them everything from first aid to shooting practice.Afghan instructors stuck mostly to classes on the constitution, police paperwork or literacy, which is a big concern for a force where under a quarter of recruits can read and write, but not the only key skill for officers in a country at war.
“For the present generation we need foreigners, for the next generation we can train ourselves,” said the officer, who asked for anonymity because he did not have security clearance to talk about the programme. “If the foreign soldiers all leave, our fate will be civil war,” he said.
He is just one of tens of thousands of Afghans who have streamed through the gates of Afghanistan’s police and army training academies in the last few years, as the country rushed to bulk up its security forces ahead of the departure of foreign troops.
But a tiny portion of those graduates have turned their guns on the foreigners who are mentoring them or fighting by their side. They have killed 51 this year alone, and on Tuesday news seeped out of Washington that the Nato-led coalition would suspend joint operations and limit partnering programmes in an attempt to curb the toll.
“Of course naturally among us there were some people who hated the Americans,” the officer said. “Sometimes when they got some help they would be happy for a short while, but you could see there was hate in their hearts.”
Intelligence officers were scattered through each intake, and did occasionally root out suspicious characters, he said, but there was no training for others on how to spot infiltrators, or system to report them.”
“Sometimes I would discuss this with friends, there would be clear signs. We would say to each other ‘that man used a fake ID to join up’. But what could we do about it, we were just ordinary policemen.”
As dozens of Afghan police and soldiers have also died at the hands of comrades in arms, worries about Taliban sympathisers is not an abstract problem. Afghan army officers going out on operations are sometimes almost as concerned about threats from the men lined up behind them as they are worried about dangers ahead, a senior officer said earlier this year.
But infiltrators are not the only, or indeed the main problem; around three-quarters of the killings are prompted by personal grudges, the Nato-led mission to Afghanistan estimates.
A report on the problem which was retrospectively classified by the US military – entitled A Crisis of Trust and Cultural Incompatibility – highlighted a range of irritants in the relationship that could fray ties and pave the way for shootings.
The issues that annoyed, angered or even repulsed Afghans ranged from the US troops’ ignorance about Islam to their tendency to swear and urinate in public. US forces in their turn were disgusted by Afghan cruelty to animals, lack of discipline and hygiene, among other issues.
But for many soldiers who don’t share those sentiments, or are more positive about the relationship overall, the attacks are depressing.
Some generals fear the US decision is already undermining military morale, the BBC reported.
“When I was at my academy and I heard about these attacks, it made me sad for my country. How did these people get through the checks?” said the Kabul officer.
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