Mon, Jun 15, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Afghan donors at a loss over police fund

Reuters, KABUL

Afghan local police and villagers listen to a speech during a ceremony to present new police uniforms in Gizab village, Uruzgan Province, Afghanistan on April 24, 2011.

Photo: AP

Afghanistan is locked in a wrangle with the UN over control of a fund for police salaries, highlighting a quandary for aid donors keen to disengage from the country but reluctant to do so until sustainable, graft-free systems are in place.

A bid to revamp the police has been one of the most expensive and problem-plagued projects Afghanistan’s Western allies have undertaken since stepping in to rebuild the country after the ouster of the Taliban in 2001.

The dispute between the government and the UN, exacerbated by a leaked UN report on police corruption, is over control of the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan and raises the prospect of more than 100,000 police going unpaid if it is not resolved by the end of this month.

While police are expected to receive their salaries, even the suggestion they might not is likely to demoralize a force that is vital to security, especially after the withdrawal of most foreign troops and struggling against a Taliban offensive.

Despite the lavishing of more than US$3 billion through the trust fund since 2002, the police have been unable to shake off a reputation for corruption and poor discipline.

The surfacing of the UN report on police corruption and a suggestion some UN officials tried to cover it up to hide their failings, has helped Afghan President Ashraf Ghani press his argument that the fund should be controlled by his government.

While donors want the fund transferred eventually, several diplomats told reporters they think ministries are too corrupt and they want strict conditions for transfer to Afghan control.

Negotiations have been heated.

At least one major donor has frozen millions of dollars. A diplomat whose country contributes to the fund said more help was conditional on the Afghan Ministry of the Interior being able to handle it “carefully and responsibly.”

“The question of how deeply cuts are made will depend on security, reforms and corruption,” the diplomat said.

Top Afghan government negotiator Narghis Nehan said talks were centered on an 18-month transition during which the United Nations Development Programme would shift into the role of monitor.

That would address Ghani’s concerns about the program’s management, which the president has objected to since it ignored demands last year to plan for a transition and withheld the corruption report from both the government and donors, undermining trust between them.

Even though the June 30 deadline for a resolution looks set to pass, donors are optimistic a fix can be found to keep paying the force until agreement is reached.

“You can’t just start firing dozens of officers in the middle of the fighting season,” EU Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Franz-Michael Mellbin said.

The EU is a major contributor to the fund.

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