A major milestone has been reached in the ongoing process of transferring security from British to Afghan forces in Helmand with the graduation of the 2,000th recruit from the province's police officer training college.
Mahmad Zarif, a 25-year-old from Nad ‘Ali district, is now about to start work as a patrolman with the Afghan National Police (ANP) after passing out from the Helmand Police Training Centre.
The centre, currently run by troops from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), in conjunction with their Afghan Police partners, recently celebrated its first anniversary, having been set up at the end of 2009.
Situated just outside the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, the school recruits men from all over Helmand and trains them into professional police officers.
Recruits are put through their paces on an eight-week course covering the policing skills they will require to provide security for the local population once they return to their districts to take up work. They are also taught the basic military skills required to survive and operate in some of the most dangerous parts of Afghanistan, as they work to bring about peace and security.
They are also given literacy and numeracy lessons. About 95 per cent of trainees are illiterate when they start their training and this education makes the officers much more respected within their communities. In addition, the recruits are taught by fully-trained colleagues about Afghan culture and the values and standards expected of an Afghan National Policeman.
As the 2,000th recruit to pass out, Mahmad Zarif has become a symbol locally of the success of the Helmand Police Training Centre and the progress being made in the development of the Afghan National Police.
As well as being the 2,000th recruit, Mahmad was also one of the top students in his platoon during training and was given the honour of being presented with his course completion certificate by Brigadier James Chiswell, Commander of the British-led Task Force Helmand.
Mahmad Zarif said:
I joined the police because I wanted to serve my country and make Afghanistan a better place. God willing, we will defeat the insurgents, as we now have many police serving in the country - enough to succeed.
It is a great honour to be the 2,000th recruit from the Helmand Police Training Centre and I look forward to starting work as a patrolman in Nad ‘Ali.
Major Jake MacKay, who commands the Helmand Police Training Centre and is responsible for directing training there, said:
As the 2,000th ANP trainee leaves us, we remain determined to continue to train a professional, well-disciplined and rights-respecting police force for Helmand. Our efforts in developing and professionalising the ANP will continue.
Lieutenant Colonel Adam Griffiths, Commanding Officer of 5 SCOTS, said:
Developing the Afghan Police is about improving their professionalism, accountability and standards. The Helmand Police Training Centre is but part of this journey and is very much the start of the process.
The Helmand Police Training Centre is just over a year old and in that time UK forces have trained more than 2,000 patrolmen and non-commissioned officers. This is a magnificent achievement and one of which both the UK troops and their Afghan partners are justifiably proud.
In many cases the newly-trained patrolmen will return to the centre in the future to undertake further courses. In the next few months the Helmand Police Training Centre is set to become the Helmand Police Academy and have its capacity increased by more than 100 per cent, with an extensive programme of building works and an uplift of numbers of training staff.
This will further enhance the opportunities to train and professionalise the force through further developed basic training and more specialised courses which policemen can attend covering counter-IED training, stores and accounting training, and command and promotion, as well as Quick Reaction Force training.