Taliban preys on Afghanistan's corrupt police force

As troops leave, secret papers reveal extent of bribery among Afghan officers

The Afghan police charged with maintaining security in their own country as coalition troops begin to pull out within months are still "endemically corrupt" and riven with problems including nepotism and drug abuse, internal government documents have revealed.

Foreign Office (FCO) papers obtained by The Independent on Sunday disclose official concerns about the fate of Afghanistan and its chances of holding the Taliban at bay, if its leaders fail to "root out corruption" throughout the ranks of the Afghan National Police (ANP).

A confidential report on the performance of the Afghan Uniform Police (AUP), the nation's major law-enforcement body, observed in October: "Unless radical change is introduced to improve the actual and perceived integrity and legitimacy of officers within the AUP, then the organisation will continue to provide an ineffective and tainted service to citizens … for decades to come."

The assessments, in a series of official FCO documents, lay bare the continuing anxieties over the war-torn country's capacity to function as a democratic state when international troops begin withdrawing from their combat role in the country in 2013. The vast majority are scheduled to be out by the end of 2014.

The details come only days after David Cameron said during a visit to Afghanistan that British troops could be withdrawn even more quickly than planned, because local security forces were "doing better than expected". The Prime Minister announced that UK numbers would be nearly halved to 5,200 next year, as part of the withdrawal plan.

The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, yesterday accepted that widespread corruption was "a bitter reality" Ω but claimed it was largely fuelled by the countries funding his government and security forces.

"The part of this corruption that is in our offices is a small part: that is bribes," the President said in a speech on national television. "The other part of corruption, the large part, is hundreds of millions of dollars that are not ours. We shouldn't blame ourselves for that. That part is from others and imposed on us."

However, the FCO reports a catalogue a series of home-grown problems with Afghanistan's police, which could hinder the country's development in future years.

In October, a report on the AUP in Helmand province questioned the chances of achieving the police's stated goal of "eliminating corruption all over the country".

The report observed: "Whilst this is undeniably a laudable aspiration, the reality of the situation in Afghanistan is that corruption is endemic; woven into the very fabric of society and in particular public institutions. This fact renders the objective unachievable, with some commentators arguing that the issue is generational and cannot therefore be dealt with effectively for many years to come."

The report called for a complaints procedure and action against "patronage and nepotism issues in the appointment of senior officers".

It added: "The continued absence of a reliable system for recruiting and promoting AUP officers will see the status quo being maintained, where people motivated by personal gain and/or harbouring nefarious intent have access to senior and influential roles within the service."

Another FCO paper, on the "Rule of Law in Afghanistan Post-2014", stated that the justice sector was improving, but it added: "Anti-corruption efforts are off-track, with political interference notable in high-level prosecutions."

ANP officers, who are usually at the front line of the security forces' dealings with the public, have to endure lower pay and fatality rates twice as high as their counterparts in the Afghan army. But one paper, entitled "Changes in ANP", observed that: "The Afghan police suffer from many problems. Of the 82,000 nominally serving on the force, around 60,000 are believed to be working. We estimate over 70 per cent are illiterate, and drug abuse is an issue."

The rate of drug use among ANP officers was estimated at 9 per cent, compared to a national average of 8 per cent.

Another report, assessing the ANP's progress, reported that the force had "shortcomings in a number of areas", including corruption and theft. It added: "Concerns remain about corruption, criminal activity, drug-use and the lack of a clear 'end state' for the force. The ANP is viewed negatively by the population, with multiple reports of illegal taxation, extortion and other serious crimes, as well as drug addiction."

The Labour MP Sandra Osborne, a member of the Defence Select Committee, said the Afghan police were "hated". She added: "It will take years for a fully legitimate police force to come about, if ever. Eventually it will be up to the Afghan government, and that is the real problem, as is widely recognised Ω the lack of a stable political settlement."

Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa, said: "Prime Minister Cameron is declaring success prematurely. There is little reason to believe that the ANP will be significantly more effective or less corrupt in 2014."

An FCO spokeswoman said the development of Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) was "a significant achievement". She added: "It is because of the increasing strength, confidence and capability of the ANSF that the transition process is gaining momentum. As a result, UK forces will be able to move from mentoring at battalion level to brigade level by the end of 2013, thereby allowing a significant troop drawdown, as announced by the Prime Minister this week."

Suggested Topics
News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Software Developer

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Pensions Scheme After 6 Months: Clearwater People So...

Systems Analyst / Business Analyst - Central London

£35000 - £37000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Busines...

Senior Change Engineer (Network, Cisco, Juniper) £30k

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Senior Change ...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past