VT Soldiers Help Rebuild Afghan Police Force

09/21/10 12:45PM By Steve Zind
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Report From Afghanistan

VPR/Steve Zind
Vermont Guard police mentors (L-R) Lt Richard Volp, Sgt Joshua Smith and Lt Louis Santillo
(Host) An important part of the U.S. government plan to withdraw forces from Afghanistan depends on the Afghan National Police, or ANP. A strong national police force is seen as key to providing the security and keeping insurgents at bay.

But after nine years of war, the ANP is viewed as riddled with corruption and plagued by inadequate training, low pay and, in some places, a high rate of attrition. This year international forces recommitted themselves to building a well-run Afghan police force.  And Vermonters are part of that effort.

VPR's Steve Zind is in Afghanistan and he sat down with several Vermont National Guard members in Kabul who are responsible for training police in the country's capital. Here's his Report From Afghanistan.

(Zind) First, it's important to understand that the Afghan police, don't operate like a police force we're familiar with. Rather than responding to traffic accidents or investigating property crimes, their main focus is national security. And that's part of the problem, which we'll get to in a moment.

I sat down with Lieutenant Richard Volp of Fairfax, Lieutenant Louis Santillo of Burlington and Sergeant Joshua Smith of Essex. They mentor Afghan police officers in Kabul. The officers they mentor then train the rank and file policemen. The training involves everything from conducting searches to keeping an accurate inventory of equipment.

I began by asking Volp and Santillo about what sort of people join the Afghan Police force. Volp answers first.

(Volp) "The people that they get are a lot of drug addicts, some people that maybe have murdered people before..."

(Santillo) ...the approach that we're working now is relatively new."

(Zind) That's Lieutenant Louis Santillo of Burlington. The two Lieutenant Volp says he's seen progress in police training since the Vermonters arrived in Afghanistan.

(Volp) Yea, I think we've come a long ways.... "
(Smith) "...and it should just happen."

(Zind) We mentioned earlier that the Afghan Afghan police are a security force. They have more than 500 checkpoints in Kabul alone - and they're focused on combating crimes that might threaten national security, not the personal and property crimes that Kabul residents experience everyday. So citizens don't really think the police are helping them, and that undermines confidence in the police.

Lieutenant Volp, the Burlington police officer, says better training should help the police redirect some resources to quality of life crimes.

(Volp) ‘If we can reduce the number of checkpoints

(Volp) "They need to trust in the government."

Volp, Santillo and Smith stress that they can only speak for what's happening in Kabul. They point out that in more dangerous areas of Afghanistan its very difficult to train police when you're busy fighting an insurgency. For VPR news, I'm Steve Zind in Afghanistan.

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