Objective Completed: Training Afghan Police
By Greg Mowle and Nasi Laveta, with Jason Byrnes
From the December 2012 issue of the APJ.
Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan receives periodic coverage and debate in the Australian media, generally only when Australian soldiers have been killed or wounded.
Relatively little coverage has been given to the efforts of the Australian Federal Police (AFP), who were first deployed in October 2007 in the Afghan cities of Kabul and Jelalabad. The mission subsequently expanded to include a range of strategic planning, criminal intelligence, counter narcotics and training support programs, provided to the Afghan National Police (ANP) in Kabul as well as in southern Afghanistan at Kandahar and Tarin Kowt.
This article is built around the reflections of two AFP members. The first is the Superintendent who led the first contingent of AFP members to train Afghan police recruits in Tarin Kowt; the second was the Superintendent of the final group of AFP personnel who worked full-time at the training centre.
Aussie Police in ‘TK’
Within months of the first four AFP members arriving in Afghanistan in 2007, planning commenced to increase the size of the organisation’s commitment. The AFP members had quickly proven themselves extremely useful to coalition and Afghan policing efforts, and several dignitaries made it known that additional police numbers would be extremely welcome. This was particularly the case as coalition military commanders came to realise that if stability and peace was to be brought to Afghanistan, it was critical to establish an effective Afghan police force.
AFP members were tasked to identify suitable additional roles that could be undertaken, noting that overall numbers of Australian police would be limited for a variety of factors including the security and safety situation in Afghanistan, costs associated with deploying personnel in an active conflict zone, and the AFP’s existing commitments to United Nations and other similar missions in places such as Timor Leste, the Solomon Islands and Cyprus.
During 2008, a training opportunity was identified in the southern and mountainous province of Uruzgan. The province’s population of around 330,000 mostly live in villages or in a handful of towns located in narrow river valleys. The provincial capital is the town of Tarin Kowt (also known as Tarin Kot) – commonly referred to amongst coalition circles as ‘TK’.
In 2008 and 2009, the Afghan National Police (ANP), with considerable financial assistance from The Netherlands, was in the process of establishing a Provincial Training Centre (PTC) on the outskirts of TK, adjacent to the Dutch base, Camp Holland. The PTC would be one of only a handful of such police training facilities in southern Afghanistan and, as a consequence, it was to be used to train the majority of ANP recruits from Uruzgan and some neighbouring provinces.
Federal Agent Bob Tait escorting recruits into the PTC. Images:ADF
Before 2009, few ANP members had actually received formalised recruit training and even fewer had been trained as instructors. At the PTC, for instance, the two nominated ANP instructors had themselves not received any training on how to instruct. There was a real need for police from coalition nations to come to the centre to both train recruits as well as teach Afghan instructors.
In 2008, AFP Superintendent Allan Spencer was posted to the centre as the single Australian representative in the ranks of the international instructional staff. During his posting he identified that there was an ideal opportunity for the AFP to provide specialist support in what was manifestly a critical area of ANP development. His proposal for additional staff was seized upon and within weeks the process of selecting, training, equipping and deploying AFP members was commenced.
A total of $6.4 million was allocated by the Australian Government to fund the operation for a three-year period and diplomatic negotiations were conducted between the Australian and Afghan governments, in close consultation with coalition authorities. The talks and subsequent written agreement were vital in ensuring that the AFP had a legal basis for being at TK.
New recruits to the Afghan National Police
Ten experienced AFP police officers were selected for the first contingent to deploy to the PTC; they received pre-deployment training from both the AFP and Australian Defence Force (ADF) in Australia and in the Middle East. Once training was completed, the team under the banner of AFP Operation Synergy, was flown to TK on a Royal Australian Air Force Hercules transport plane in August 2009.
After landing on TK’s dirt airstrip, the Aussies set to work in the height of an Afghan summer, with temperatures soaring past 40 degrees Celsius during the day and hovering around 30 at night ...