1st Battalion The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) are currently heading up the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group training centre in Lashkar Gah, Helmand province, along with officers from the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) and Royal Military Police (RMP).
And their first class of Afghan Uniform Police (AUP), consisting of 129 patrolmen and 105 non-commissioned officers, graduated recently after the 14-week basic police training course.
The recruits are schooled in weapon-handling, checkpoint defence and patrolling skills by instructors from 1 PWRR, while the MDP and RMP train the recruits in a range of policing practices including evidence-handling, and arrest and detention procedures.
Trainers from the Afghan Ministry of the Interior at the centre also instruct recruits on Afghan law, history and constitution. The centre trains 1,700 recruits a year.
The recent graduates originally joined up as Afghan Local Police (ALP), a scheme whereby if a village can muster enough men, the government pays for a week’s training and supplies them with small arms to keep the peace.
It was always hoped that the scheme would prove to be a recruiting sergeant for the more established Afghan Police Force.
Indeed, the recent graduation from the Police Mentoring and Advisory Group training centre means that the local police are becoming fully-trained policemen and returning to their villages as such.
Major Rich Bredin, Officer Commanding of the Lashkar Gah Training Centre, said the transition is similar to members of an armed neighbourhood watch becoming fully-qualified police officers. He added:
This is a really important step. The pace of development here and the quality of students passing through gives genuine hope for the future.
These patrolmen will serve in Zone 707 which incorporates both Helmand and Nimruz provinces, and of course it will benefit both provinces to have checkpoints and police stations manned with well-trained patrolmen and officers.
Colour Sergeant Daxious Pett, a team commander at the Lashkar Gah Training Centre, who has previously been involved in police training in Iraq and Kosovo, said:
We are working on training up Afghan training team commanders so that their teams are able to take over the delivery of the training themselves.
The instructors are very keen, but sometimes they can be reluctant to take the initiative without consulting with their chain of command. It’s up to us to help them take the initiative.
The graduation parade was attended by senior Afghan National Police, including Major General Ezmatullah Dulatazai, the Commander of Zone 707.
Graduate patrolman Abdul Malik, who started the course as ALP and will move to the Afghan 3rd Kandak shortly, said:
We have learnt many skills, such as lessons on drugs, first aid, and how to run vehicle checkpoints. Our hearts and minds tell us to fight for our own country and make it safe for others.
In the past the Afghan Police were weak and no-one trusted them, but now the Police get stronger every day and civilians trust us. We will be proud to take over security of our own country.
More established Afghan Uniform Police who 1 PWRR have been working with have recently carried out a series of independent operations to provide security in central Helmand province.
Police in the south of Nahr-e Saraj conducted a significant operation to prevent poppy cultivation in the area. Conducted by more than 120 police, the operation saw them sweep through the area and seize farm equipment and arrest 50 people suspected of involvement in poppy farming.
The operation was headed up by Nahr-e Saraj Deputy Chief of Police Lieutenant Colonel Shadi Khan, who informed the suspects of the consequences of poppy cultivation.
Children under 16 were released after giving guarantees that they would not attempt to grow poppy again. The remainder of the suspects are awaiting prosecution.
During the operation the AUP also recovered a number of pre-prepared improvised explosive devices (IEDs) which were destroyed by AUP specialists.
Major Marcus Myles, from 1 PWRR, said:
The AUP regularly receive information from incidents on the ground and react accordingly. This shows an increased capability and is a good indicator of progress.
Just the other day we had a phone call from a concerned local who had seen a suspicious package in the bazaar in Lashkar Gah. A police patrol had deployed to the location and confirmed that it was nothing to be worried about. All of this had occurred before we were even made aware of this.
The Police have also seen success with their Crimestoppers hotline which receives more than 8,000 calls a month informing the Police of a range of criminal activity, including the placement of IEDs.
In the past few weeks, the Crimestoppers hotline has received a number of tip-offs on IED locations, leading to one occasion where the AUP responded independently and disabled the device, preventing any casualties.
Sergeant John Milne from the MDP, normally based at HM Naval Base Clyde, is the Crimestoppers mentor in Lashkar Gah. He said:
We’ve had a number of recent successes through the Crimestoppers hotline which the AUP have successfully dealt with. The line also deals with calls related to corruption, which are dealt with by the prosecutor’s office, which allows the locals to report problems with the Police.