The UK and Afghan partnered training institution for the Afghan National Police (ANP), the Helmand Police Training Centre (HPTC), celebrated its first birthday on Sunday 5 December 2010.
The centre, just outside provincial capital Lashkar Gah, was established last year to provide a formalised training course for the ANP to raise the standard of policing across the troubled province of Helmand in southern Afghanistan.
To date, the HPTC has trained a total of 1,593 policemen and 160 junior commanders, while a further 488 are currently in training. The milestone of the 2,000th recruit is set to be achieved on 29 December this year.
Increasingly, police in Helmand are taking responsibility for security in the urban areas within the districts of Nad ‘Ali and Nahr-e Saraj. The ANP have already mostly taken over security within Helmand’s main cities of Lashkar Gah and Gereshk.
The HPTC is currently run by troops from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (5 SCOTS), who are currently deployed to Afghanistan with the specific task of training and mentoring the ANP. They are supported by UK Ministry of Defence Police and Afghan instructors.
Lieutenant Colonel Adam Griffiths, Commanding Officer of 5 SCOTS, said of the 12-month milestone:
In some ways it’s actually quite astounding to realise that HPTC has only been operational for 12 months when you see how vital its contribution to the campaign now is.
My key focus for 5 SCOTS during this tour is professionalising and bringing about institutional development in the ANP. The Helmand Police Training Centre does just that.
In this great institution, we produce trained and motivated men who possess the skills to be genuine police officers - not part of a militia or second-rate army. This is the future for Helmand and the best way to provide genuine and long-lasting security to enable the people who live here to lead normal, safe lives.
The Training Centre has found itself increasingly in the limelight as its capability has increased. This year the team has hosted visits from Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg as well as recently-appointed Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards.
The high-profile nature of the task is due to the key role the centre is playing as part of the long term exit strategy for UK and other NATO troops from Afghanistan.
Major Jake McKay, the 5 SCOTS officer charged with the day-to-day running of training at the HPTC, said:
We and our Afghan partners at HPTC are providing the future for Helmand. We are trying to bring about institutional development in the ANP, giving them the tools to protect themselves and the people of Helmand, and to focus on their task of providing community policing in Helmand’s towns and cities.
The difference in the standard of HPTC-trained policemen and that of police who have not undergone its rigorous eight-week course is stark and has been noted by troops serving in Helmand part of whose daily task is to partner and mentor ANP patrols.
Major Nick Wight-Boycott, who commands Delta Company, 5 SCOTS, said of a recent 5 SCOTS and ANP joint operation:
In the morning we conducted local community engagement with the ANP; in the afternoon we were shoulder-to-shoulder with them in hot pursuit of the Taliban. Every day the ANP demonstrate they are growing in capability and confidence and the benefits of the training delivered at HPTC are very clear to see on a day-to-day basis.
The ANP patrolmen and commanders in training at the HPTC are also grateful for the benefits of the training. Fizullah, a policeman of ten years’ experience who is now for the first time undergoing formal training at the HPTC, and who lost an arm fighting the Taliban, is performing well in training and has been given command of his own platoon.
Fizullah said of the training:
Most importantly we are being taught to read and write and to count at HPTC. This knowledge gives me greater standing when I go back to my post in my community; it means I will be given more respect and have the same status as the village elders due to this knowledge. Through this I can better serve my country and protect the people I am responsible for.
Despite such progress in its busy and productive first 12 months, greater things are planned for the HPTC. Next year it will become the Helmand Police Academy with space for a further 250 police recruits.
Already more and more courses are run by specialists from 5 SCOTS involving counter-IED tactics, stores and accounting skills, command and control protocols for headquarters elements, officer training, and training for quick response units.
There will also be specialist training for female police officers, who are increasingly accepted and welcomed by the rest of the police force and their communities as a vital part of the development of the ANP.