Afghan police welcome more U.S. help
April 4, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan — Even police officers in Kabul’s safest neighborhoods are happy to see more American help coming their way as Afghanistan’s police force prepares for a surge of its own going into this fall’s elections.
President Barack Obama’s new plan for Afghanistan calls for sending 4,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to work in small teams as advisers for Afghan army and police units. In late March, the Afghan police also got orders to grow their numbers by 4,000 by election time, said Col. Abdul Rahman Rahimi, the chief of Kabul’s 1st Police District. About 170 new recruits have joined since the orders went out.
Rahimi oversees a prosperous market district that he said has been largely untouched by terrorist attacks in the 2½ years he’s been chief. "The lock of a shop has not been broken yet," he bragged.
His department is also one of a small percentage of Afghan police and army units that is able to operate on its own.
Because of its proficiency, Rahimi sees advisers less than units with more problems. He estimates that he meets with the Americans just one to three times a week. An increase in advisers should allow them to visit proficient units like his more often.
"If we have more friends, we are happy," he said.
The National Guard is on its eighth rotation overseeing the adviser mission in Afghanistan, which is now headed by the 33rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of Illinois. Combined Joint Task Force Phoenix, as the mission is called, is also made up of servicemembers from other branches, civilians and foreign soldiers from various countries.
Obama’s plan will double that to a two-brigade mission, said Brig. Gen. Steven P. Huber, the CJTF Phoenix commander. The 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team from Georgia will be responsible for the north and the east of Afghanistan, while the 82nd will be responsible for the west and the south. A National Guard general will have overall command. When both brigades are moved in, two brigades will be doing the work that one brigade used to do on its own.
"[Task Force Phoenix] has been sorely under-resourced," Huber said.
Police advisers will be busy even with the extra help. The extra police that the Afghan government ordered will begin arriving before the new advisers do, starting this summer. The larger force is necessary because the initial plans for this fall’s election calls for securing 500 polling sites, about five times as many as last election, Rahimi said.
Huber is confident they’ll have the police trained on time. He noted that the incoming units will overlap with the 33rd Brigade as it leaves.
"It’ll stretch us a little, but we’ll cover it," he said.
Measuring Afghan security forces’ progressAdvisers can’t measure progress by insurgents killed or money distributed. Instead, they rate the police and army units they oversee according to a scale of "capability milestones." Brig. Gen. Steven P. Huber, head of the adviser mission in Afghanistan, said the capability of Afghan units is a good measure for how the new adviser plan is working. "Once they’re able to do independent and self-sustaining operations, I think that’s going to send a clear signal," he said. Here’s a look at what the CM levels mean:
CM 4: The lowest rating. Units at this level have just been formed. Soldiers go to basic training for individual soldiers skills. Newly formed units then go through a period of training to learn to work together as a group.
CM3: The unit has completed training and is operating at a battalion location for army units or at a police district.
CM2: The unit is in the lead but still needs coalition assistance. For example, a coalition company may work with an Afghan battalion.
CM1: The highest rating. The unit is capable of independent operations, although it might still need coalition forces for tasks such as medical evacuations. Huber said only a small percentage of units are at this level.
Source: Col. Bill Morris, operations officer for Combined Security Transition Command — Afghanistan; Brig. Gen. Steven P. Huber