Mon, Dec 29, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Afghan police battle insurgents at high costs

AP, KABUL, Afghanistan

When brothers Amir and Mosha Jan joined Afghanistan’s police two years ago, they though that their patriotic duty was more important than obeying their father, who did not want his only sons joining a police force on the front lines of the war against the Taliban.

The father’s worst fears came true earlier this year, when gunmen on a motorcycle opened fire on the two brothers as they patrolled the streets of the one-time Taliban capital, Kandahar.

“Two Taliban on a motorcycle started firing at us,” Amir, 25, said. “My brother was shot dead on the spot.”

Mosha was 23 years old.

As US and international troops leave Afghanistan after more than 13 years, Afghan policemen are dying in record numbers as they perform dangerous tasks usually reserved for the military, according to the head of the European-funded mission to train the police force.

The international combat mission is to end on Wednesday, leaving Afghan security forces in charge after leading the fight since the middle of last year.

About 5,000 members of Afghanistan’s security forces — army, police and armed rural defense units — have died this year, outgoing EU Police Mission in Afghanistan head Karl Ake Roghe said.

“The police have lost something like 3,200 this year, so most of the casualties belong to the Afghan National Police,” Roghe, who has led the mission for two and a half years, told reporters.

By comparison, about 3,500 foreign forces, including at least 2,210 US soldiers, have been killed since the war began.

“This is the main problem for Afghanistan — how they are dividing the responsibilities for fighting the insurgency. This should be a task for the Afghan National Army, not the police. Currently, it belongs to the police and the main part of the fight is done by the police,” he said.

Afghanistan has 157,000 police officers in a force created, trained and funded by the EU.

“They are doing this totally alone and, of course, they are not properly equipped for this task,” he said.

Amir and his brother knew the dangers when they joined.

“However, we thought: ‘If we do not stand up for our country, then who will?’” he said.

“I lost my brother. I am proud of him for sacrificing his life for this country; I hope I can do the same,” said Amir, who has since left the police and joined the army. “I know the government is doing less for the police [than for the army], but I do not want to blame them, because they are also not in a good position.”

Many join the police out of desperation. A police officer earns US$200 a month, and the family continues to receive that amount if he is killed in the line of duty, as well as a one-time compensation payment of three times that amount.

Officers get about US$300 a month.

However, it is an increasingly risky gambit.

As international forces have left, they have taken with them air support — helicopters and jets — that allowed ground troops to take the fight to the Taliban.

In response, the insurgents have swept into populated areas, where police are ill-equipped to repel them and where women and children are increasingly caught in the crossfire.

Roghe said the deterioration in security since the Afghans took the lead had been expected and will continue for some years.

“[International troops] drawing down and the Afghans more exposed — this will create some space for the insurgency,” he said.

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