Afghan police still out of step
By Pratap Chatterjee
WASHINGTON - Afghan police are widely considered corrupt, unable to shoot
straight, and die at twice the rate of Afghan soldiers and North Atlantic
Treaty Organization troops. After US$7 billion spent on training and salaries
in the past eight years, several United States government investigations are
Some answers are obvious: Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries of the
world, with extremely low literacy and a serious drug problem. One in five
police recruits test positive for drugs and fewer than one in 10 can read and
write. Unofficial estimates
suggest that the Taliban pay twice as much as the government, luring away many
candidates from law enforcement careers.
But another rather surprising answer was offered in a little-noticed report
published last month after a high-level investigation by two major US
The report - titled "DOD Obligations and Expenditures of Funds Provided to the
Department of State for the Training and Mentoring of the Afghan National
Police" - says that the US State Department has completely failed to do any
serious oversight of the private contractors to whom they paid $1.6 billion to
provide police training at dozens of sites around Afghanistan.
DynCorp's International Police Training Program, run out of Fort Worth, Texas,
has won the bulk of the contracts that have been overseen by the State
Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
(INL). The company, which has annual revenues of $3.1 billion, has followed a
series of wars to run lucrative police training contracts from Bosnia in the
1990s to Iraq in 2003.
DynCorp's work with Kabul began in 2003, almost two years after the fall of the
Taliban. It was expanded in 2004 when the State Department issued it a contract
to build seven regional training centers, and provide 30 police advisers across
This initial contract was replaced by a series of related contracts beginning
on August 15, 2005, under which DynCorp today employs some 782 retired US
police officers and an additional 1,500 support staff. The contracts expired
January 31, 2010, but have temporarily been extended until the end of March.
The cost of hiring contractors to train police is high: Each expatriate police
officer makes six-figure US salaries - at least 50 times more than an Afghan
police officer. Many experts, including the authors of this new report, have
questioned the utility of sending police officers - many from small towns in
the US - to teach handcuffing and traffic rules to recruits caught in a war
"The DOS [State Department] Civilian Police Program contract does not meet DOD
[Pentagon]'s needs in developing the ANP [Afghan National Police] to provide
security in countering the growing insurgency in Afghanistan," says the report
signed by Pentagon deputy inspector general Mary L Ugone and State Department
assistant inspector general for the Middle East Richard "Nick" Arntson.
The report concludes that the State Department-led training "hampers the
ability of DOD to fulfill its role in the emerging national strategy".
The inspectors general have a long list of complaints.
State Department officials take as long as six months to implement training
requirement changes requested by the Pentagon.
The State Department failed to draw up any means of assessing DynCorp's work.
"The current task orders do not provide any specific information regarding what
type of training is required or any measurement of acceptability ...
Additionally, the current contract does not include any measurement of
Oversight of invoices and receipts submitted by the contractor was virtually
The description of the State Department's seven-member oversight team as "in
country" is "misleading". Only three of the seven "in-country" State Department
officials officially in charge of overseeing DynCorp contract were based in
Afghanistan. (Three were US-based and the seventh worked on an entirely
Much of the equipment provided by the US for training had gone missing. During
site visits to three police training centers in Bamiyan, Herat and Kandahar,
the inspectors randomly selected 123 items from an inventory list of vehicles,
weapons and electronics, but could only locate 34. In Kandahar, nine "sensitive
items" - pistols, rifles and scopes - could not be located. A subsequent check
up at DynCorp's headquarters in Kabul showed that the weapons were signed out
by company personnel. Of 89 non-sensitive items, only two could be located. The
Kandahar site coordinator explained that the list was inaccurate and out of
Money, too, was unaccounted for or misappropriated. Inspectors quoted a
preliminary audit that identified $322 million in invoices for the State
Department's global police training program that were approved "even though
they were not allowable, allocable, or reasonable". Roughly 50% of the approved
invoices that the inspectors reviewed had errors. The inspectors general
recommended that the State Department should return a "minimum" of $80 million
from the Afghanistan budget to the Pentagon.
Douglas Ebner, a company spokesman, e-mailed Inter Press Service to say that
DynCorp "welcome[d] the emphasis on oversight and accountability". He noted
that the DynCorp inventory system had been approved by the Defense Contract
Management Agency. "Sensitive items are inventoried and documented on a monthly
basis. The audit report notes that sensitive items in fact were accounted for
as being properly signed out by contractor personnel," wrote Ebner.
The State Department acknowledges many of the problems with oversight. "We
agree with report recommendations to station more contracting officer
representatives in country for oversight and are moving forward," said Susan R
Pittman, a State Department spokesperson. The State Department, she added, was
developing "standard operating procedures [specifically] identifying duties and
responsibilities" for the oversight officials.
But Pittman took issue with the conclusion of the inspectors general that there
was an $80-million overcharge, noting that the State Department was conducting
an audit to determine "how much we can return".
While the inspectors general have criticized the lack of State Department
oversight, they have not found fault with DynCorp. "Based on what the contract
stated, we saw no problem with the contractor," Arntson told CorpWatch.
Yet if the measures that are used to track the capabilities of the Afghan
police are any guide, the contract has not been a resounding success. All told,
the ANP had 94,958 personnel on the rolls as of December 31, 2009, organized
into 365 police districts, but only about one quarter have actually completed
formal training, according to Pentagon records.
Just 17% of the 64 police districts reviewed by the inspectors general had
sufficient equipment and were capable of conducting law enforcement operations
by themselves. Half of the police districts were classified as "present in
geographic location" with up to a level of 69% of equipment and personnel and
"partially capable of conducting law enforcement with coalition support".
Recent statistics appear to show that the success rates is sliding backward,
despite a March 2009 promise by the Barack Obama administration to devote more
resources to standing up the Afghan security forces.
Figures tucked away in a January 2010 Special Inspector General for Afghanistan
Reconstruction report, for example, displayed some alarming trends. A review
that covered 97 police districts assessed just 12% as capable of independent
operations. Between the third and fourth quarter of 2009, the number of police
districts that were considered incapable of conducting law enforcement
operations rose from 13 to 21%.
DynCorp is not being considered for a new billion-dollar training contract by
the Pentagon office in charge - the Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program
Office (CNTPO) in Dahlgren, Virginia. Instead, CNTPO plans to select from five
pre-approved vendors: Xe (formerly Blackwater), Lockheed Martin, Northrop
Grumman, Raytheon and ARINC Engineering Services.
DynCorp is not taking this lying down - the company has filed a protest with
the Government Accountability Office, alleging that the approach is
"procedurally and legally flawed". A decision is expected by March 24.
Ryder continues to insist that DynCorp is the most qualified to do police
training. "[N]either our military nor European National police were formed or
trained to teach basic law enforcement skills," he told the Commission on
Wartime Contracting. "At DynCorp International we do not build satellites. We
do not design aircraft. We do training and mentoring. That is our core
competency - and this competency is represented in the DNA of our 30,000
Pratap Chatterjee is a senior editor at CorpWatch. This article was
produced in partnership with CorpWatch.