Thursday, November 4, 2004

Let’s cut to the quick. There has been much talk lately about training police in foreign lands, including Iraq and Afghanistan. Some hard facts may help.

First, the aim of all U.S. efforts to train police in foreign lands is either to stabilize nations in transition, professionalize an existing police force, or both.

Second, since 1994, the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (“INL”) has trained tens of thousands of police officers around the globe.

In places like Haiti, Liberia, Sierra Leone, East Timor, Kosovo and now Afghanistan and Iraq, the State Department has delivered quality police training that has saved lives and secured nations. The record is solid and speaks for itself.

Teaming with the Justice Department and a regular phalanx of unsung international law enforcement personnel, including U.N. police trainers, the State Department has methodically expanded the rule of law and paved the way for democracy.

This direct investment in security benefits 250 million Americans — and countless millions of non-Americans. Simply put, what we do abroad affects regional, hemispheric and global security — and thus our own security here in America.

A few examples will shed light. In Kosovo, ethnic violence last March threatened to overwhelm and extinguish thousands of dreams and lives. Explosive rioting spread city to city. Yet, within hours, it was confronted by direct, lifesaving intervention from U.S.-trained Kosovar police officers assisted by Civilian Police, or “CIVPOL” (police advisers on contract with the U.S. State Department). A recent visit reinforced the stark reality: Without U.S. State Department experience, conviction and acceptance of risks, including to U.S. lives, Kosovo would have experienced a bloodbath.

In East Timor, the idea of democracy would have been smothered without State Department-trained police. In Liberia today, as part of a wider U.N. force, the State Department is bringing new hope to a police force without training in human rights, community policing, riot control or basic investigation for more than a decade.

Afghanistan recently held a stunning, nearly violence-free election. Why? Largely because the Afghans wish intensely to live in freedom and to realize the offer of democracy.

And in some part the election was held because the State Department, assisted by our German allies, worked overtime training more than 29,000 police since January. The training was done in the capital of Kabul and at State Department-built academies in Kandahar, Konduz, Gardez, and Mazar-i-Sharif. Two more academies are being built in Bamiyan and Herat.

Now, enter Iraq. The State Department’s International Police Training Center in neighboring Jordan, merely nine months old, is a desert miracle. Training focuses on basic policing skills, democracy, riot control, counterterrorism and simple willingness to fight for the future. Iraqi police trained there set the standard. They are determined to keep Iraq’s future free. They are Sunnis, Shi’ites and Kurds. They are men and women. They are from north and south, east and west.

To date, eight full classes have passed through the intensive eight-week curriculum. Their numbers have risen from 500 to 1,500 cadets per class. They have been well-taught.

With 324 instructors, 89 from the U.S. and 235 from 15 other nations, the officers being trained are greatly exposed to wide experience and skills. After graduation, they have stood their ground under fire. Some have died defending their homeland.

Overall, more than 5,500 high-quality police officers have emerged from the State Department’s Jordan Academy. Meantime, we have continued expanding capacity, laying cement and steel, building three 50-point shooting ranges, auto driving courses, a chow hall for 900, bunking and showers for 3,500 personnel. And the beat goes on.

State’s effort complements training at the Baghdad Public Safety Academy and emerging regional academies in Iraq, each Defense Department-supported and training thousands more. Quality is key, but the story line is always the same: Can do.

On Oct. 14, the ninth high-quality police class graduated from the Academy in Jordan.

As we continue building new capacity, our goal is to accelerate toward 32,000 police by mid-2006 or earlier. These police officers will help secure Iraq. Each knows the challenge. Each is prepared and ready to help Iraq gain a future of freedom. Those are the facts, when you cut to the quick.

Robert B. Charles is assistant secretary of state at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.

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