KABUL, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A military surge in Afghanistan will fail to curb a strengthening insurgency unless it is accompanied by better policing and more technology to trace terror suspects, Interpol’s head said on Friday.
Foreign generals have been calling for more troops amid growing Western concern about Afghanistan, where violence by Taliban militants and other insurgents has risen dramatically in the past two years.
But Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble told Reuters on Friday that more emphasis was needed in training and equipping Afghan police to identify and fight insurgents.
“When I hear people talking about the importance of another surge in Afghanistan, the importance of getting more troops here, I say yes, there are provinces where there is a real war going on.”
“But when you get to the city of Kabul and other provinces ... a military approach to the anti-terrorist effort is in my view a short-sighted approach,” Noble said.
Noble was speaking in the heavily guarded, five star Serena hotel in Kabul where in January attackers set off suicide bombs and opened fire on guests, killing at least one guard, three Americans, a French woman and a Norwegian journalist.
NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. David McKiernan, said this month he would need thousands more U.S. troops on top of planned reinforcements. His call has been echoed by other military commanders in the coalition.
More than 60,000 Afghan police are now out on the streets, but the number is small for a nation of Afghanistan’s size, with a population of an estimated 28 million.
Germany has been running the Kabul Police Academy since 2002, but the force is still widely regarded as inefficient, unprofessional and corrupt.
Between 2002 and 2007, Germany spent just $80 million on reforming the police. The United States is now throwing more cash into the pot, budgeting $800 million for 2008 for all of Afghanistan’s security forces.
“My view as Interpol Secretary General is that police in Afghanistan need greater support, greater training and greater equipment to do the kind of things in day-to-day operations that police around the world do,” Noble said.
“Right now it’s fairly inexpensive worldwide to equip any police bureau with the capability of taking fingerprints and photographs and sending that wireless to a data base in the country,” Noble said.
“Afghanistan has 34 provinces. I would dare say maybe six provinces, maybe seven provinces, have that capacity.”
Noble said policing could take pressure off the military.
“You know that the countries that are supporting Afghanistan are receiving pressures back home,” Noble said.
“How long is this going to last? how long will our military be put at risk? And for all those reasons we believe that greater emphasis needs to be place on helping the police.”
Talking to senior Afghan security officials, Noble said he was repeatedly asked who would train the police and how long could their support be counted on.
“If you drive through Kabul ... it’s as though you are in a war zone, doesn’t matter where you go.”
“My assessment is that we as civil society have to think about being here, helping the Afghanis, for 10-20 years.” (Editing by Keith Weir)