KABUL — Police in the capital have plenty to monitor already — suicide bombers, kidnappers, car thieves. Now add to that list their own comrades behaving badly on the roads.
The Ministry of Interior has issued a warning to Afghan National Police officers: Those caught flouting traffic laws in government vehicles will be punished. The ministry is even dispatching patrols with the sole purpose of catching fellow officers driving carelessly or using their government vehicles for personal errands.
Corruption has been an ongoing problem for the Afghan security forces, especially in the ranks of the police, consistently viewed with less trust by Afghans than the army. In Kabul, where traffic is already perpetually snarled, residents are accustomed to police trucks barreling through traffic and cutting off other drivers.
In a released statement, the Ministry of Interior says it’s beginning a crackdown on reckless driving by officers and the use of government vehicles outside of duty hours.
“There have been accidents in Kabul and the provinces because of the careless driving by the police,” said Ministry of Interior spokesman Najib Danish.
Danish said some of the crashes have caused injuries and that officers driving their vehicles, often packed with armed soldiers, after work hours led to a more militarized feel in Kabul and in the provinces.
The Ministry of the Interior warning also said officers who park their official cars at their homes instead of in police lots will be punished.
Offenders who are caught driving recklessly or misusing their police vehicles will get a warning first and, upon a second offense, face criminal prosecution, Danish said.
The new patrols will also be on the lookout for dangerous driving by civilians, though what will constitute “dangerous” is yet to be seen in Kabul, where wrong-way driving and passing with oncoming traffic bearing down are normal, lanes are nonexistent, and traffic enforcement mostly consists of fining drivers caught at checkpoints with expired licenses. Fortunately, speeding is not much of a problem, as the city’s near-constant traffic jams assure lead-footed drivers have few opportunities to get past third gear.