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EUPOL in Afghanistan: what a disappointment! says the CER

(photo credit: European Union / EUPOL Afghanistan)

"Weak leadership, excessive security restrictions, limited mandate and lack of strategy, (...) the EU police mission in Afghanistan best illustrates the shortcomings of EU engagement".

Here are the main elements of the note just published by the Center for European Reform (CER), one of the European think tanks, based in London.

Its author, Joanna Buckley, knows what she is talking about: she was one of the Special Representative's POLADs (political advisers) in Afghanistan for several years (with Ambassador Vendrell), and knows the terrain well.

The report is severe and will certainly give rise to comments! But it is not uninteresting.

Born out of disagreement...

EUPOL suffers from a design error according to J. Buckley. Initially, a "rule of law" mission was envisaged, to support the reform of justice AND the police in Afghanistan. But "disagreements between Council and Commission" led to another result: "the Council launched a separate Police training mission. While the Commission, for its part, was starting its own program on Justice."

... launched prematurely

When the mission started in June 2007, it was "premature". The EUPOL mission is to succeed the German GPPO program (German Police Project Office). But "German government pushes for EUPOL to start before it's ready", to get this result"under his presidency". In fact, the majority of EUPOL staff are nothing but police personnel from the missions of each State and "hastily rebadged. Few of them received instructions on the difference between their new mission and the old one."

...Little support from Member States

Many member states show only limited interest in the mission. They are slow to deploy sufficiently qualified personnel or to finalize agreements allowing EUPOL staff to be located in national military bases or in provincial reconstruction teams.""Even though its objective is the rule of law, only one expert, at the beginning, will be available on this subject".

EUPOL does too little work

Result. "For a while, EUPOL will not do more than work on administrative, procurement or recruitment issues". In addition, "draconian security rules are imposed on European personnel, limiting their movements in Afghanistan. EUPOL members can only move in convoys of two vehicles with personnel, even inside Kabul".

...on a vague and erroneous mandate

The biggest mistake, for Joanna Buckley, is the mandate of the mission "too vague and wrong". His goal "Training, mentoring and advice"Afghan Police has been fixed"without evaluating what would be the most effective methods and where the greatest needs were". It was concentrated at too high a level: "at the provincial and regional level while the needs for reform were rather at the local or district level. At the same time, the Americans are putting $2,5 billion specifically into a training program for the districts, which the EU does not could not contribute because of the mandate of the police missionEUPOL has also ignored the reality of factionalism and corruption in the police. The Europeans have made proposals on technical and operational issues but neglected an overview.

...with an inadequate operational chain of custody

For Joanna Buckley, some of the errors are linked to EUPOL's operational control chain. This mission is managed "by the CPCC, under the political control and strategic direction of the COPS". In fact, it is the CPCC who gives the instructions, "the COPS giving only a very weak strategic impetus". However, the CPCC - for Buckley - is rather "an operational management with more technical than regional expertise. The office of the special representative is limited to providing local political guidance". We feel here what the CER researcher recommends: a closer link between the EUPOL mission and the EU Special Representative, rather than a distant hierarchy with the structures based in Brussels (see below).

...and a recurring lack of personnel and the will of States

Admittedly, Joanna Buckley has noticed an improvement in recent times: with the increase in the "Rule of Law" unit, the deployment in the 16 provinces of EUPOL experts. But the defects of the beginning remain: "the mission still has only 245 people out of the 400 planned for 2008". Member States participating in EUPOL continue to "develop bilateral programs, considering EUPOL too rigid and preferring to do things according to their own view". She cites as an example the increase in the German police mission (while EUPOL was supposed to succeed it) or the initiative of the European gendarmerie force (France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain) which have engaged their forces in the "NATO training mission" rather than in EUPOL.

Solution: boost the spirit of Lisbon

For the author, in conclusion, the spirit of Lisbon must be further promoted in Afghanistan without waiting for the outcome of the negotiations on the European External Action Service. If the Lithuanian Usackas, the new EU special representative in Afghanistan (1), is now also responsible for the EU delegation in the country (double-hatted), it must be ensured, underlines the note of the CER, that the political staff of the Special Envoy and the Commission Delegation "are not only united but share the same political priorities".

Usackas should also have "clear authority over the EUPOL mission". Which would give the special representative the "to steer EUPOL's priorities to ensure that mission policy reinforces the EU's overall strategy in Afghanistan".

To resolve the question of personnel, the EU should also accelerate its efforts to set up a force of civilian experts ready for deployment, in line with the "Stabilization Unit"British or the"Civilian Response Force" American. It is a fact, recalls J. Buckley: "many police officers consider a posting abroad to be detrimental to their career prospects, as it is not considered 'home'".

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde)

(1) Usackas (SpeRep Afghanistan) auditioned in Parliament

Nicolas Gros Verheyde

Chief editor of the B2 site. Graduated in European law from the University of Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne and listener to the 65th session of the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de la Défense Nationale. Journalist since 1989, founded B2 - Bruxelles2 in 2008. EU/NATO correspondent in Brussels for Sud-Ouest (previously West-France and France-Soir).

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