Police Chief Returns From Afghanistan Training Mission

Tuesday, March 6th 2007, 9:14 pm

By: News On 6

NATO-led troops are launching their largest ever offensive against Taliban militants in a volatile southern Afghan province where hundreds of militant fighters have amassed. A former Tulsa Police Chief witnessed the re-emerging threat from the Taliban first-hand, spending three months helping train Afghan National Police. The News On 6's Heather Lewin reports Ron Palmer knew Afghanistan would be an adventure, but he wasn't prepared for everything.

“The poverty is pervasive across the country and immediately, being a civilian in Afghanistan, you're treated as a security risk,” said former Tulsa Police Chief Ron Palmer.

Palmer was chosen, because of his experience in police leadership, to bring some American style policing to the force in Afghanistan. But when he began to help with the training program he was met with another surprise.

"The police are more like a militia, it's not to protect and serve, it's not to do order maintenance, not to keep the peace,” Palmer said. “One of their main goals as stated is to stop the insurgency."

Palmer says the Afghan Police outnumber that nation's Army and are actually the front line against border attacks.

"So one of the questions I asked early on of the guy I worked with, the Brigadier General of the National Police, is 'Where's the Army? Why are the police fighting the insurgency?' And it's just, it's just tradition," he said.

Still he says the Afghan government is hoping to westernize its police force.

Palmer was encouraged by much of the progress there, like a special day care that continued operating even after its founder was killed by a suicide bomber.

Palmer chose to end his contract early, after living like a prisoner under tight security and being unable to work directly with the officers he went to train, he decided he wasn't accomplishing what he set out to do. Still, he says he doesn't regret his time in Kabul and holds high hopes for the country's future.

"The Afghan generals took to heart that it was their police department and it was their country and the Americans and Westerners were there to assist, but the bottom line is after we all left, they would have to continue on," said Palmer.

Palmer says U.S. police mentors helped create a training program incorporating law and human rights. He says new recruits are embracing it, but widespread corruption in Afghanistan is still a problem, since officers only make about $70 a month.

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