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29th May 2022

British Lords criticise EU failures in Afghanistan

  • EUpol building in Kabul. The project 'has the wider effect of bringing EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions as a whole into disrepute' (Photo: Council of European Union)

The 300-or-so highly-trained EU policemen trying to build law and order in Afghanistan have achieved "very little" in the past four years due to understaffing and bureaucracy, a British government report says.

The study, by an oversight committee in the House of Lords, out on Wednesday (16 February) described the set-up of the €50-million-a-year EUpol mission as "woefully inadequate" and said it creates "wonderment by other [Nato] allies."

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"[It] has the wider effect of bringing EU Common Security and Defence Policy missions as a whole into disrepute."

The report praised the "dedicated staff," their "great expertise" and the "good quality" of the training they provide in "challenging conditions."

But after four years of work, around 70 percent of Afghan police cannot read or write and process basic paperwork, many ask for bribes to carry out day-to-day tasks, operate out of "desolate" huts and violate human rights. After completing their six-week-long EUpol course, 75 percent of them vanish.

The House of Lords said the biggest problem is understaffing.

EU member states in 2007 agreed to send a modest 400 people to cover training of the 96,000-strong Afghan National Police in 13 provinces in the vast country, but the EUpol number has mostly stayed below 300.

EUpol experts say the job will take another five to 10 years. But the mission is due to end in 2013, with little scope for an extension because most Nato troops plan to leave in 2014 or 2015.

Its diminutive size means that EUpol gets scant respect from the mixed bag of other international, bilateral and private-sector police-training bodies at work in the field. The Nato Training Mission Afghanistan is worth $9.5 billion a year.

The lack of formal EU-Nato co-operation, due mainly to Nato member Turkey's gripes against EU member Cyprus, is putting EUpol lives at risk by limiting, for example, anti-friendly-fire protocols.

The US itself is making EUpol's work harder by pushing it beyond its civilian mandate, notably, to put "boots on the ground, such that you have someone in the line of fire against the insurgents," the House of Lords warned.

Another major problem is Brussels, however.

The report said that complicated procurement procedures and decision-making structures run by the Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability (CPCC) office in the EU capital are out of step with the "phenomenally" fast-changing developments in the field.

"Some of the impact of the decision-making and the processes adopted in the CPCC really did hamper our ability to operate on the ground," Nigel Thomas, EUpol's interim head of mission in 2010, told the British committee.

The report noted that, Kaj Vittrup, the Danish former head of EUpol, stepped down last year to take a job in the private sector due to the bureaucratic entanglements.

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