Policing reform key to prevent suicide attacks on cities
By Mohammed Gul SAHIBBZADA-As the country is grinding at war with international terrorists organizations since last one and half decade, Afghanistan government is yet to come up with a war strategy directed at types, styles and tactics used by these terrorists. Though the present army and police forces are relatively new, and established during the ongoing war on terror, the onus of responsibility for their training, modus operandi of operations, directions and setting objectives still lies on the shoulders of government leadership and senior military officers. Today’s warfare tactics are no secret as countries in this region in particular and around the world in general have already experienced these types of wars during last 50 years. Examples of these countries include Sri Lanka, Tamil Tigers had waged insurgent war against central government for forty years until they were defeated in 2009, India continues to tackle insurgent war in its Assam and Kashmir provinces, Colombia has grappled with very much the same kind of war with FARC insurgents for fifty years. United Kingdom was struggling at war with Irish insurgents for more than a decade. Experience of these countries and set of knowledge built up during their struggle to quell insurgents can be of tremendous help in imparting specialized fighting skills, reconnaissance, intelligence skills and observation and identification tactics, which are critically important for a police force engaged at war with ideological insurgents and terrorist organizations.
Police is a soft arm of the State, primarily for internal security. It is the only state institution allowed to use force in peace times’. Police department is accountable to criminal justice system, community and government through established mechanisms. But police force in Afghanistan has no credible accountability system in place. In addition they do not have established mechanism of operations involving different level of priorities. This is one of the most important reasons that duties of army and police are mixed up. Unless these two organizations are segregated in terms of duties by installing different structures of command and control, Afghanistan will continue to struggle and can suffer more casualties in the ongoing war on terror. Military should largely be accountable to the state and government, and police institutions should be accountable to justice system, government and community. Military always follows the principles of proportionality of force, and deploy force proportionate to threat. Military actions do not follow activation of criminal justice system, but police actions are entailed with criminal justice system. Other areas for improvement include proper investigation after occurrence of incidence. There have been many clues for proper investigation at bombing and suicide sites, but these clues are not exploited at all. The person who had committed suicide and had died in the act, are not investigated. Accepted norms should be to take the body, carry out judicial autopsy and identify the body. There are chances that important clues could emerge for obtaining links that can lead to center of the network dispatching these suicide idiots for attacks.
Ministry of Interior should field highly trained police officers and personnel to the field for patrol round the clock in major city centers and to areas crowded with high density of population. These police contingents should be part of a strategy that should include cooperation of people in the area, use of technology such as security cameras, metal explosive identifying tools, detective tools, behavioral psychology, checkpoints and a network of spies throughout population centers. This mechanism should be duplicated and put in place in major cities and districts. ‘Police in Delhi would train personnel to eye contact, watch for behavior of individuals on the streets and observe activities of people appearing strange in their looks, which had paid big dividends in bringing relative reduction in the beginning and complete elimination of bombing incidents in Delhi at later stages during the 1980s insurgent activities. In addition, police behavior with general public and their treatment of people should be characterized in the framework of high morale and civilized manners. As mentioned above, police is the soft arm of government. Any mistreatment on the part of police of general public can backfire severely – especially in societies where insurgents and terrorist groups are working hard to conscript fighters in their ranks. Bad manners and mishandling of general public by police and other security and government officials can backfire severely.
International community, mainly the United States of America, has undertaken huge training programs for Afghanistan police force. Billions of US dollars have been expended in the form of contract awards to DynCorp International, a US firm and other firms including Black Water, to train Afghan police force. But these training programs were devised and undertaken in the form spasmodic response to the changes that would occur in US policy about their Afghanistan intervention. There was no long-term strategy and research on the ground as to in what framework should the training begin, and what kind of training was needed for the police force to face aggressive attacks by an entrenched insurgency and other terrorist groups. Police and army institutions were embarked almost in identical duties – engaged with enemy at front lines!? Highly costly workshops and training sessions were being organized for police officers and personnel at hotels and other expensive commercial buildings in civil areas, which have proved to have had no impact on the level of knowledge and skills of police personnel. Instead, most drastic ways to organize training sessions should have been taking place inside the police institutions in the halls and training camps, and the training could be organized by police trainers from neighboring countries police institutions. This could have left long lasting impact on the training, which could have provided opportunities for our officers to established working relationships with police officers of these friendly, neighboring countries for afterward follow-up on certain professional matters.
In the wake of almost daily fatal terrorist incidents in the country, leadership of the two large security institutions i.e. ministry of defense and ministry of interior, should work together to address these issues. It is imperative to overhaul operations, command and control structure and modus operandi of the two forces’ conducts and effectiveness in the field. Though it might seem unrealistic to completely pull out police force from battle fields, ministry of interior should plan for this to happen. On solution could be to recruit local militia under direct control and command of ministry of interior, which can replace police force fighting along with army personnel at frontlines. Policing of society in its proper manner can earn support from general public. Much of the ongoing incidents of suicide bombings, road side bombing and other types of terrorist attacks can be reduced, which will translate into a more sanguine city life, increased commercial activities and investment. A strong, skillful and knowledgeable police and judicial institutions can evaporate any and all support for insurgency among populations, and people will gather around their legitimate government.