Afghan pullout talk hurting police training: EU

16th February 2011, Comments 0 comments

Fears of a withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan in 2014 are harming efforts to transfer security to locals, the head of the EU police training force EUPOL said on Wednesday.

"If you talk to a normal Afghan person, even an educated one, their biggest fear is now that the international community will fly out from the country entirely in 2014, and then the Taliban will be back," Jukka Savolainen said.

"They have understood for example that all these people who work for internationals will be murdered," he told reporters at a European police congress in Berlin.

As an Afghan, "you leave a space in your mind for the unfortunate case when the country will be abandoned, and this of course makes the Taliban threat more credible than it actually should be."

Savolainen, who is Finnish and took over EUPOL command in 2010 after Kaj Vittrup of Denmark resigned, said however it was "understandable (that foreign governments) can never give a longer term commitment."

Afghan forces are scheduled to take control of security in 2014, 13 years after the US invasion toppled the Taliban, and a big part of this is creating an effective police force and judicial system.

Savolainen also said that police training, which he said is beset by problems of illiteracy, rampant corruption and a high number of Afghans recruits leaving after being trained, began in earnest too late.

"Now we know that if the international community had understood and read the situation in the way that it does now, they should have started developing the Afghan national police with full force immediately in 2002," he said.

"It didn't happen, it should have happened earlier.

"But it is not too little and not too late."

The European Union only launched EUPOL Afghanistan in June 2007, providing training with staff from Canada, Croatia, New Zealand and Norway. As of July 2010, it had 285 international staff and 163 locals.

Savolainen said that around 90,000 recruits have received six weeks of basic training so far, but that they needed an additional three months until "they can be called a police force."

In some areas, around 90 percent of recruits are illiterate, he said.

© 2011 AFP

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