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EU police mission in Afghanistan to end; police more involved in fighting than policing

Afghan policemen dismount from a truck during a patrol in Helmand province on Sept. 23, 2014. An Afghan official said Tuesday that an Afghan policeman killed 11 colleagues Monday night before fleeing the scene.

STARS AND STRIPES

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 29, 2016

KABUL, Afghanistan — The European Union is ending its police mission in Afghanistan after nearly a decade, but says a group of advisers will return next year to provide additional support to Afghan police whose effectiveness has been hampered by the country’s deteriorating security.

Since 2007, the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan has worked in partnership with the Afghan government to develop a civilian police service.

By enforcing the rule of law and building trust within communities, the police force is seen as vital to bringing stability to the country crippled by years of war. However, growing instability has meant officers have had to increasingly focus on fighting insurgents rather than traditional police work.

In addition, preventing the police from carrying out their traditional duties, has also hampered EUPOL’s work.

“I think it’s probably not the right time, but the decision was made and it is difficult to take back,” said Pia Stjernvall, head of EUPOL Afghanistan, when asked about the mission’s end.

In December 2014, the Council of the European Union decided EUPOL Afghanistan’s mandate would finish on Dec. 31, 2016.

Weeks after the decision, international forces in Afghanistan switched from a combat mission to a train, advise and assist mission, which put Afghans in charge of their country’s security.

The Taliban used the opportunity to intensify attacks and are now said to control more Afghan territory than at any time since 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion removed them from power.

“In 2014, the security situation looked very different than it looks now, and we thought we could do much more than, at the end, we were able to do,” Stjernvall said. “Here, when 70 percent of policemen are still fighting the war, it’s quite impossible for them to concentrate on doing policing.”

The Afghan government has vowed to do more to ensure police are able to carry out their traditional role.

“This is a problem,” said Najib Danish, deputy spokesman for the Interior Ministry, saying too many police officers were involved in battling insurgents.

Because Afghanistan’s police still “need a lot of support,” Stjernvall said EUPOL will be sending a follow-up team to Kabul in March that will continue to advise the Afghans on a strategic level.

She said the team will likely consist of fewer people than the current mission and provide fewer services but will focus on improving civilian policing in the country.

That has been welcomed by the Afghan government.

“The support from the foreign and international co-operators, including EUPOL, in professionally training our police is vital for us and we thank them for this,” Danish said.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @PhillipWellman

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