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GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – In the early morning on Dec. 22, before their normal daily patrols were scheduled to begin, 17 Afghan National Policemen lined up outside their district center. Standing at attention waiting for instruction, each of them looked as professional as any Coalition force Soldier.
Their instruction was led by civil affairs members of Ghazni Provincial Reconstruction Team. The CA members conducted an instructional course designed to coach, mentor, and train the police on civil-military techniques. The intent of the course is to encourage interaction with the population, in order to gather information while developing relationships and building trust between the ANP and the people they serve.
The police in this district were chosen for the training because of its location. Deh Yak is a key district in Ghazni province. The area is ethnically mixed with the people representing both the Pashtu and Tajik tribes.
The training course was broken down into three parts beginning with an introduction to what civil affairs is about and how the techniques are used to shape public opinion. The second was an actual lesson on public-policing, and the third was a practical exercise conducted at the bazaar.
U.S. Army Staff Sgt. John Nichols, Civil Military Operations Center non-commissioned officer-in-charge, began the course by introducing the students to the benefits of policing techniques and how they can be used to help shape public opinion. He began by offering suggestions on types of questions to ask that are designed to open the lines of communications. Examples include: “How are you? How is your shop doing? Do you have kids? And, have you seen anyone new around?”
“I’m not here to teach you how to become a police officer,” Nichols said. “I’m here to give you more tools that you can use to interact with the people so that they can help you to do your job.”
A portion of the course was specifically geared toward proactive policing. Nichols described it as finding out what the peoples’ needs are before they become a problem later.
“We want to see them interacting with the population so they can improve their relationships with the villagers,” Nichols said. “Once they gain the trust and confidence of those they serve, they will find that all sorts of information will feed out of that.”
It is not uncommon in the smaller districts and villages for the police to be the only government officials that the people see.
“We’re trying to connect the people with their government at the lowest level,” said civil affairs team leader U.S. Army Master Sgt. John Hecker. “Talking to the police is a way for them to voice their concerns.”
The students were encouraged to ask questions which will provide them with information that they can later use to make improvements to the local security.
During the scenario, two volunteers practiced the learned interaction techniques while the others watched. The audience then participated by offering suggestions on how to better communicate. The students then congratulated each other through handshakes and applause.
When the instructions were complete, Sgt. Nichols asked the group if they had any questions.
One policeman asked Sgt. Nichols, “What do we do when the people are too afraid to talk to us? What do we tell them when they say that the Taliban are threatening to do bad things to them if they talk to us or work with us?”
After collecting his thoughts for a moment, Nichols replied “We all know your job is not easy, but we have to start somewhere. We want to help you get to where you want to be. We’re trying to develop trust here. You know people are having problems with the Taliban, but you can use this as an opportunity to gain their trust in the police.”
While all the police participated in the exercise, one student stood out among the rest. Azize Llaha, one of the 17 officers, wore his uniform with pride.
“When I come to work, and fasten on my belt, I do my best to provide security for the people. The shopkeepers and people have a lot of problems. Even if they are Taliban, I will do my best to make them civilians and help them find the best way.”
Azize Llaha was the first to volunteer to practice his community policing and engagement skills. It was clear that he not only understood what was taught to him, but that he was able to implement it easily. After talking to a shop owner, Azize Llaha walked up to a group of kids to shake their hands and pose for a photo.
“We conduct patrols every day,” Azize Llaha said. “Today, it was better. From now on, when I’m on patrol, I’m going to try and talk to the people more.”
Civil Affairs will continue mentoring ANP from districts across the province as part of the combined action with Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces.
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