- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

KABUL, Afghanistan — The nation’s beleaguered, ragtag police are in for a bonanza — the monthly pay of an ordinary policeman will nearly quadruple, with about $1 billion to be spent in the next 15 months to upgrade and equip the force, especially to fight the narcotics trade.

President Hamid Karzai’s government also has decided to dismiss scores of senior police officers, many of whom are suspected of being corrupt, and import about 700 retired U.S. policemen to act as “mentors” for the Afghan national police.

“After the fall of the Taliban, we had to start from zero. Therefore, many mujahedeen commanders were inducted into the force,” said Lutfullah Mashal, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry.

“As a result, the [national police] has hundreds of generals and not enough captains, while the officer-soldier ratio is the highest in the world,” said Lt. Gen. Syed Sher Agha Rohani, commandant of the national police academy in Kabul.

Of 300 generals in the police force, he said, 64 will be retained.

During the past 3 years, 988 policemen have been killed — the highest casualty rate of any national or international security force in Afghanistan.

Six policemen were beheaded by Taliban rebels in Helmand province in the south last month.

The Afghan government’s decision to implement long-overdue police reforms came shortly after the U.S. Congress in June allocated more than $900 million for Afghanistan’s police.

Much of this money will be used to root out poppy cultivation and clamp down on the booming narcotics business.

After the fall of the Taliban regime, Germany became the lead nation in reconstructing the Afghan police. But Germany’s annual financial commitment of less than $15 million was inadequate for rebuilding a national force from scratch.

“Due to the slow pace of police reconstruction, we were compelled to ask for more aid from the international community,” Mr. Mashal said.

The United States stepped in late in 2003, setting up seven police-training centers, a poppy-eradication force and a national drug-interdiction unit.

But the strategic-partnership agreement signed in Washington in May by President Bush and Mr. Karzai vastly has increased U.S. commitment to rebuild the Afghan police.

Though Germany will remain the lead nation, its role will be somewhat overshadowed by the American initiative.

“Along with Germany, the U.S. will implement a robust mentoring program and deliver a substantial increase in capability through the delivery of vehicles, weapons, communications and infrastructure,” said a spokesman for the U.S. Office of Military Cooperation.

About 700 U.S. policemen are likely to be hired through private contractors.

“It takes a few years and a lot of effort to build a police force,” Gen. Rohani said. “The U.S. is committing huge resources, and this will make a very big difference.”

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