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The risks were clearly on the mind of the guard who recently pointed his weapon at the Toyota approaching the gates of the 70-year-old academy, the nation’s oldest, a sprawling compound that harks back to a peaceful Afghanistan ruled by a monarchy.

Gen. Nawroz Khaliq, who took command of the academy more than eight months ago, wants to restore higher standards to the institution. A career cop with a receding hairline, Gen. Khaliq envisions an academy that will create a new generation of policemen who understand the law and are committed to upholding it.

“In 10 years this academy I promise will be as good as any in the world,” he said inside his comfortable office across from the parade grounds.

A giant picture of Mr. Karzai hangs on the wall. A bouquet of dusty plastic flowers dominates a small bookcase, and plush couches line the walls.

Gen. Khaliq said the withdrawal of foreign forces in 2014 could be an opportunity for Afghans to rise to the occasion and prove themselves, but he acknowledged that the job ahead is colossal.

After the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001, the academy’s traditional three-year program was mostly supplanted with a new eight-week training course in the rush to turn out uniformed policemen.

Large sections of the police were drawn from the ranks of militias whose warlord leaders sit in the Afghan parliament. Others came from remote villages. Few had seen the inside of a school.

Standards for the eight-week police training program are low, according to Gen. Khaliq. There is no educational requirement. New recruits don’t even have to be able to sign their name, just provide their fingerprints.

They do, however, need to be recommended by a government official, who vouches they are neither Taliban nor a criminal.