U.S. spending $600 million on Afghan police stations

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 22, 2010 

KABUL — The U.S. military plans to spend more than $600 million to build nearly 200 police stations for the Afghan National Police over the next year. The massive investment in the Afghan police comes as the Obama administration intends to build the force up to 160,000 policemen by 2013.

At about $6 million a police station, the structures will look scarcely like your standard neighborhood precinct.

According to U.S. Corps of Engineers designs, most of the police stations will have a barbed wire perimeter with guards posted in each of the four corners. The walls and roofs will be built with reinforced concrete.

"There are five basic designs that are used for police stations, and they're all pretty similar," said Paul Giblin, a spokesman for the U.S. Corps of Engineers.

The Corps of Engineers commander insists the design of the stations strikes a balance: Leave the Afghan police with fortified bases, but not so fortified that police officers will be cordoned off from local citizens.

"We're building police headquarters that people can come to and interact with police," said Col. Michael McCormick, the commander of the U.S. Corps of Engineers' North Afghanistan operations. "There is no requirement to build the stations like bunkers."

Some would argue that bunkers may be appropriate for a force constantly under siege by insurgents — by some estimate, the forces loses 10 percent of its ranks to fatal attacks.

One provincial police chief who spoke to McClatchy railed against designs, saying his policemen needed more protection against insurgent attacks.

"From the fighting point of view, they are vulnerable," said Abdul Karim Omaryar, police chief of the eastern Laghman province. "It cannot resist small arms fire."

Omaryar said he presented his concerns to the Afghan Ministry of Interior, but was told that "the contract is done and approved by Washington."

Through a U.S. Corps of Engineers spokesman, McCormick insisted that the buildings would would resist small arms fire.

If U.S. commanders have their way, the Afghan police won't be spending much time in the stations anyway.

"The police in Kabul are getting out a little bit more, spending more time with the local populace as opposed to sitting inside that police precinct," said Brig. Gen. Larry Dudney, the commander of a security force mentoring bureau in the Afghan capital.

"That's where you're going to get of your information on where the Taliban are, or where the people are that have stolen the police uniforms who are going to try to infiltrate the ranks," Dudney added.

(Day reports for The Telegraph in Macon, Ga.)

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McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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