[R-G] Afghan police program in turmoil; Commander quits over political fights

Anthony Fenton fentona at shaw.ca
Thu Sep 13 10:47:20 MDT 2007


Copyright 2007 International Herald Tribune
The International Herald Tribune

September 13, 2007 Thursday

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 3

LENGTH: 760 words

HEADLINE: Afghan police program in turmoil;
Commander quits over political fights

BYLINE: Judy Dempsey - The New York Times Media Group

DATELINE: BERLIN

BODY:


The general commanding the European Union police training mission in  
Afghanistan is returning to Germany three months after his  
appointment because of wrangling among the European Union, NATO and  
the Afghan Interior Ministry, senior Western diplomats in Kabul said.

Friedrich Eichele, a former commander of the elite German commando  
unit GSG-9 who was appointed in June to head the police mission, will  
return to run the anti-riot police unit as soon as Berlin chooses his  
successor.

''We can confirm that Brigadier General Eichele will be returning to  
Germany very soon,'' a spokesman for the German Interior Ministry  
said Tuesday.

Diplomats and security experts in Kabul said Eichele's early  
departure - reportedly at his own request - highlights the immense  
difficulties in trying to establish the small mission of 190 European  
trainers at a time when alliance forces have to deal with increased  
fighting by the Taliban, Al Qaeda and local warlords, particularly in  
the south of the country.

They said the mission had been underfunded, understaffed and poorly  
prepared.

''It seems that the EU was not really properly prepared for such a  
complex mission,'' said Ronja Kempin, an Afghan expert at the German  
Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin. ''The EU  
seemed to have rushed into setting up this mission. Then there is one  
of the biggest difficulties of all - the pervasive corruption in the  
Afghan Interior Ministry with whom Eichele has had to work directly.''

The United States, the EU, the United Nations and NATO in recent  
months have stepped up their efforts with President Hamid Karzai of  
Afghanistan to tackle corruption and to improve and coordinate the  
training programs for the Afghan police.

The EU agreed to take over the police training mission from Germany  
because NATO had asked the Union to start providing civilian security  
in Afghanistan. The idea was that once NATO gained control of an  
area, the newly trained Afghan police would move in to maintain  
security so that the development agencies could carry out their  
projects.

But the EU police force has been hampered from the beginning,  
according to diplomats in Kabul. The EU member states have provided  
only half the personnel so far, with the remainder promised by next  
March. The European Commission, the EU executive, has delayed  
approving a budget for 70 armored cars, computers and office  
equipment which have still not arrived in Kabul. The total commission  
budget for the first year of the mission was ¤43.6 million, or $60.2  
million.

Eichele's staff does not have enough cars, computers or offices to  
function, diplomats in Kabul said.

''We cannot travel outside Kabul because the armored-plated cars have  
not arrived,'' said an EU diplomat based in Kabul and who requested  
anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. He said the  
original cost of the vehicles was ¤110,000 but had increased to  
¤170,000 because the security specifications changed. ''Germany gave  
us 15 such vehicles. Because the costs went up, the commission went  
back to drawing up a new budget, issue new tenders, and so there were  
more delays.''

The EU Commission for External Relations, which is responsible for  
financing the Union's common foreign and security policy and a part  
of the police mission, said Tuesday that there had been some delays.

''There has been a bit of a delay because it is a very difficult  
mission,'' said a commission official. ''The EU wanted to get it off  
the ground as quickly as possible. It is beginning to work now.''

The police mission has also become embroiled in a turf war inside the  
European Union and with NATO. The EU's special envoy to Afghanistan,  
Francesc Vendrell, wanted political control over the mission, which  
Eichele opposed.

''There were personality clashes,'' said an official from the German  
Interior Ministry.

With the increase in fighting in several Afghan provinces, Eichele  
wanted guarantees from NATO that it would provide assistance if any  
of the police officers came under attack. In an interview last month  
with the International Herald Tribune, Eichele said ''so far we have  
no cooperation agreement with NATO.'' The agreement has been held up  
by Turkey, a leading NATO member.

NATO said Tuesday it would continue to assist the police. ''NATO has  
been providing assistance until now to European police in  
Afghanistan,'' said James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman. ''I cannot  
imagine that in the future, NATO will not provide to EU officials  
anything less that the same support we provide to other  
organizations, like the United Nations.''




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