Stability operations embrace a wide range of civil-military missions in fragile or conflict-affected states, and they range from traditional peacekeeping to combat with well-armed insurgents or criminal elements. Often different activities, including combat, policing, humanitarian assistance, and reconstruction, occur concurrently in the theater of operations. The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has described these operations as:
military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.1
Establishing the rule of law is a key strategic objective of stability operations. In states plagued by conflict or where the government is discredited or lacking, the maintenance of law and order may fall to foreign military and police intervention forces. These contingents must impose and maintain order in the absence of the effective national and local police forces that would perform this task in stable, functioning states. They must also train and mentor indigenous police forces to enable the transition from conflict to normalcy that will allow foreign forces to withdraw.
Afghan National Police cheer for commander after training in Kabul during heavy snow
U.S. Army (Lester B. Colley)
Military forces are often essential to create the initial security conditions that allow the civilian components of a stability operation to build a durable peace. However, armed forces are not intrinsically suited to police work. Soldiers are trained to apply lethal force in war. Military force can have a deterrent effect on militias and criminal gangs, but the deployment of soldiers in a law enforcement role sometimes leads to excessive violence, which invariably alienates the local population and provokes armed resistance. Some militaries can and do perform effectively in a policing role, but their efforts are ultimately intended to buy time for the development of host nation police capabilities. As the latest British counterinsurgency (COIN) doctrine acknowledges, “where armed forces have to act to support the civil authority they should transfer such security responsibilities to the civil police as soon as conditions allow. Any sense of permanent presence by allies or partners is likely to be exploited by insurgents and critics from home and abroad.”2
In a postconflict situation, effective policing helps to keep violence at a manageable level and can build public confidence in the stabilization process so large-scale military force does not have to be employed. It is not surprising, therefore, that the number of police deployed in United Nations (UN) peace support operations has increased dramatically since the end of the Cold War. UN policing roles in the early 1990s were limited to monitoring, observing, and reporting on indigenous police services, but in the last 15 years, policing operations have become increasingly complex with the requirement to undertake executive policing functions and often the major reform of local police services.
Despite the increase in activity, building the capacity of indigenous police has often proved problematic. In Afghanistan, for instance, rapid expansion, inadequate training, and insufficient resources created an Afghan National Police (ANP) that lacked capability, legitimacy, and integrity and was plagued by problems of corruption, high desertion rates, illiteracy, and drug abuse.3 Although the East Timor operation (1994–2004) is regarded overall as a UN success story, the police capacity-building program has been described as hampered by “slipshod planning, squandered opportunities and unimaginative leadership.”4
This article addresses the challenges of policing UN and coalition stability operations and assesses efforts to achieve host nation police primacy, defined as a situation where indigenous police forces have the main responsibility for internal security and maintenance of the rule of law. It offers a broad perspective by identifying and discussing reoccurring problems that have beset policing operations and assessing national and international efforts to make better use of foreign and host nation police assets. It recognizes that reform and reconstruction of the judiciary, justice department, and penal system are also essential to establish and maintain the rule of law, but a discussion of these functions is beyond the scope of this article.
Police Roles in Stability Operations
The division of tasks between police and military forces and the composition and role of police forces vary according to mission-specific factors, such as the mission mandate, threat environment, condition of indigenous security institutions, and availability of foreign manpower and expertise. On major stabilization missions, police operate alongside military forces, ideally establishing an effective functional relationship while maintaining a separate operational profile. Depending on the nature of the operation, foreign deployed police may perform tasks that include:
Law enforcement is the most important function of the civil police, but this function represents a particular challenge during stability operations. Postconflict situations are often chaotic, and the presence of insurgents and armed criminal gangs can cause foreign and indigenous police forces to be diverted to address high-end threats, thereby limiting their effectiveness in dealing with basic crime prevention and law enforcement at a local level. Population control and protection are important police functions during all stability operations. These tasks require a high level of skill and robustness as they can include public order management tasks such as riot control, maintenance of checkpoints, and enforcement of curfews. Formed units of paramilitary police, such as the Italian Carabinieri, are normally better suited for these roles than soldiers because the former are trained to deal with public order issues and the discrete application of force. For example, during the Albanian riots against Serbs in Kosovo in March 2004, the response by Kosovo Force soldiers proved woefully inadequate; most national military contingents were not trained, equipped, or mandated to deal with civil disorder.5
Police also have a crucial role in intelligence-gathering. The role of intelligence in the context of stability operations ranges from an awareness of local problems with essential services, governance, and crime to information about insurgents and their support networks. Foreign deployed police often lack local knowledge, cultural awareness, and language skills. Host nation police can compensate for these deficiencies and provide valuable human intelligence. The use of indigenous police to arrest violent elements seeking to disrupt the stabilization process can reinforce the criminal nature of these activities, while the employment of soldiers in this capacity may reinforce a local perception that acts of violence are legitimate resistance against foreign occupation. Unfortunately, in many fragile states, police quality is poor and officers are unpopular with the people they are supposed to serve. A survey conducted in Iraq in 2006 found that 75 percent of Iraqis did not trust the police enough to tip them off to insurgent activity.6 Local police may have to be judiciously recruited, trained, and monitored by foreign law enforcement officers before they can operate independently. Patience and perseverance, as well as a broader political will to stay the course, are essential. A premature attempt to establish host nation police primacy can jeopardize wider progress toward security and normalcy. In summer 2005, for example, the British army prematurely handed over responsibility for urban security in Maysan Province to the Iraqi police. The number, training, and motivation of the police were inadequate, and the force could not maintain civil order. The resulting security vacuum assisted the growth of Mahdi army militias with links to Iran.7
The UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) has long stressed the need for “democratic policing,” recognizing that a responsive and accountable local police force defending basic human rights is essential for a successful transition to long-term and sustainable security.8 Building such an indigenous police capacity requires special training for police officers seconded by donor countries as it involves skills outside normal police work including mentoring, advising, training, and consulting. The United Nations and other international institutions struggle to recruit sufficient police officers with appropriate skills for this vital work, and many do not receive appropriate or effective predeployment training.9
Reoccurring Policing Problems
Common policing problems have blighted successive stability operations. Often, foreign police do not deploy in sufficient numbers or early enough to prevent a rise in criminal activity and public disorder in the host country. Efforts to train and mentor host nation police forces tend to be insufficiently tailored to local requirements. They sometimes emphasize rapid throughput to get boots on the ground rather than an investment in long-term quality policing. Capacity-building programs for indigenous police forces are also often obstructed by poor coordination among the plethora of national and international agencies involved.
Planning for Operation Iraqi Freedom made no provision for an international police force, not least because senior U.S. officials assumed that Iraqi state institutions would remain largely intact. In May 2003, the U.S. Department of Justice belatedly called for the deployment of 6,600 international police advisors and 2,500 paramilitary police to help coalition forces maintain order.10 By June 2004, fewer than 300 police advisors, recruited and trained by DynCorp International and under contract from the State Department, had arrived in theater. Moreover, the main U.S. coalition partner, the United Kingdom (UK), had not included professional police in its postconflict planning. Consequently, British training efforts remained inadequately staffed and resourced, and the hastily trained local police in southern Iraq remained weak and corrupt. The UN Kosovo operation in 1999 also included a robust police mandate with executive authority to conduct investigations, make arrests, and mentor a new Kosovo police service, but the slow pace of recruitment and deployment of UN police allowed ethnic Albanians to carry out reprisals against ethnic Serbs and for organized criminal gangs to become established.11
Unfortunately, experienced and deployable police are in short supply, and the process of police mobilization takes much longer than the deployment of a comparable number of military personnel. In contrast to military units, police personnel in developed countries are employed in law enforcement duties in peacetime, and foreign deployment leads to vacant positions in domestic police forces. During a conference in 2000, European Union (EU) members established a Headline Goal of 5,000 police for stability operations. This included a rapid reaction force of 1,000 that would be deployable within 30 days. Despite these commitments, it proved difficult to find just 650 police to deploy on EU police missions to Bosnia and Macedonia in 2003.12 Similar tardiness has characterized contributions to the European Police Mission (EUPOL) in Afghanistan since 2007.
Some major countries such as the United States and United Kingdom have no national police force. Therefore, the deployment of serving officers requires the consent of state or local political and police authorities, suitable available volunteers, and their selection and training for missions in a more dangerous than normal policing environment. In the United Kingdom, the provision of police support depends on the agreement of chief constables from up to 53 separate police authorities. The United States has over 17,000 state and local agencies, as well as 9 major Federal law enforcement agencies. Funding for each mission has to be approved by Congress, after which the State Department contracts corporations such as DynCorp to recruit, deploy, and manage police officers. The United States has an additional constraint: the Foreign Assistance Act of 1974 restricts expenditure on assistance to foreign police forces. During the UN mission to Somalia (1992–1995), it took 6 months for the State Department to obtain funding from Congress and the necessary Presidential waiver under Section 660 of the act to allow a new Somali national police force to be trained. By the time personnel from the International Criminal Investigative Training Assistance Program deployed, the situation in Somalia had deteriorated to such an extent that their program had to be abandoned.
The training of host nation police rarely stems from an effective in-country training needs analysis. Therefore, standardized (Western) training models are imposed without sufficient regard for local circumstances. This criticism is endorsed by Ann Phillips, former director of the Marshall Center’s program in Security, Stability, Transition and Reconstruction. She laments the continued tendency to focus on technical law enforcement skills rather than basic governance issues when training and mentoring indigenous police services.13 As lead nation for Afghan police training, Germany established a police academy in 2002 to provide university-level training for senior police officers and a shorter program for noncommissioned officers. These programs, although of high quality, were based on a European model for professional police training that was unrealistic given the size of Afghanistan and the security situation there.14 Attempts by the U.S. State Department to create a Western-style police force in Iraq in 2003 were similarly bedeviled by the total absence of a normal professional police culture in the Iraqi police service (IPS). Authors David Bayley and Robert Perito aptly summarized the generic problem: “in mission after mission . . . training programs have been put in place like canned food that is assumed to be universally nourishing. In complex environments, however, one size doesn’t fit all.”15
A tendency to emphasize the quantity rather than the quality of indigenous police has exacerbated the situation. Adequate numbers are important to impose and enforce security, but police forces must also be trained to behave in a manner that gains the confidence of the population and reinforces government legitimacy. The training process for local police forces has often been rushed on the assumption that large numbers of hastily trained recruits would prove sufficient regardless of local law enforcement conditions, culture, and history. In Afghanistan, for instance, basic police training was cut from 8 to 6 weeks in order to get police numbers on the ground to support COIN efforts.16 Poor training has certainly contributed to high ANP attrition rates. Similar problems arose in Iraq. In late 2003, the U.S. Government ordered military commanders to institute a mass hiring program for the IPS with slogans such as “30,000 in 30 days.” This initiative helped to resolve some short-term Iraqi employment problems but did nothing to ensure the development of an effective police service. A Justice Department basic training program based at the International Police Training Center in Amman, Jordan, churned out up to 2,500 new IPS officers each month, but these large numbers could not be adequately managed, equipped, or supported once back in Iraq.17
Hasty recruitment and training also prevent an adequate vetting process. According to Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, a rigorous recruitment and vetting process provides the most important means of dismantling abusive and corrupt networks within the security forces.18 In contrast to the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the vetting of all law enforcement personnel in the country by UN mission staff provided a foundation for successful police reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1999 and 2002.
The poor quality of host nation police recruits can present additional challenges. This has been marked in Iraq and Afghanistan but is by no means unique to these campaigns. In Kosovo, even with modest requirements for police recruits, 80 percent of initial applicants apparently failed to meet minimum standards.19 Low pay can be a disincentive, but the intrinsic vulnerability of local police also deters recruits. As security force first responders and a visible manifestation of the new regime, local police and often their families are the first individuals targeted by peace “spoilers.” Dennis Keller of the U.S. Army War College criticizes police training policy because of a general failure to distinguish between the need for both “stability policing,” which necessitates a force with paramilitary capabilities, and “community-based policing,” which requires police officers with peacetime law enforcement skills. For Keller, decisions on the timing and manner of the transition from one form of policing to the other are of critical importance.20 Lieutenant General James Dubik, USA (Ret.), who commanded Multi-National Security and Transition Command–Iraq in 2007, has argued that host nation paramilitary police forces should be established first to allow local police a “protective space” free from intimidation and violence in order to begin the law enforcement transformation process.21
Creating effective police forces takes sustained effort over an extended period. Experts estimate that it can take 5 years to create a new law enforcement organization from scratch.22 Writing in 2009, one independent analyst from West Point stated that it would take “a decade to create an Afghan Police Force with adequate integrity to operate at village level in a competent manner.”23 These timelines are undoubtedly challenging for an international community that is impatient to see results and often reluctant to engage in protracted civilian capacity-building in fragile states.
The large number of national and international law enforcement organizations involved in stability operations can also hinder effective police capacity-building. Foreign police forces may include military police, formed police and paramilitary units, individual police specialists, and specialized units, including border, counternarcotics, and antiterrorist teams. Since 1999, the United Nations has provided Formed Police Units (FPUs) of around 120 personnel that can perform the full range of police functions. In 2006, these were supplemented by a Standing Police Capacity (SPC) to try to bridge the police deployment gap already mentioned. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has introduced Multinational Specialized Units (MSUs) of 250 to 600 personnel to perform public order duties, while the European Union has created Integrated Police Units that can provide the full spectrum of law and order functions. Outside of EU frameworks, several European states with national paramilitary police forces formed a separate European Gendarmerie Force in September 2004. The African Union and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe also deploy police on stability missions, although the latter’s role is restricted to monitoring and training duties. This proliferation of agencies has unfortunately contributed to a duplication of effort, inconsistency in approach, and a less-than-optimal use of scarce resources. The World Development Report 2011summarized the broader problem: “Internal international agency processes are too slow, too fragmented, too reliant on parallel systems, and too quick to exit, and there are significant divisions among international actors.”24
Like military contingents, police units deploy with different doctrines, operating procedures, and national caveats. In policing and civil justice, however, national systems, structures, legal frameworks, and practices tend to differ more than in the military sphere. Disagreements between donor countries can lead to weak and unsustainable mandates for international police assets. The UN International Police Task Force (IPTF) that deployed to assist Bosnian law enforcement agencies in 1995 had an initial mandate limited to monitoring, mentoring, and training. The unarmed IPTF could only operate with the cooperation and consent of the Bosnian police and was in no position to deal with continuing interethnic unrest.25 In Afghanistan, the problem has been compounded by contradictory concepts of policing. The U.S.-led NATO Training Mission–Afghanistan (NTM-A) has focused on the rapid training of large numbers of recruits to provide a basic COIN force, while EUPOL and some bilateral efforts have sought to build a professional, community-based police force over the longer term. The lack of coordination among foreign police assistance programs is described by Thomas Wingfield as the “main weakness” in efforts to build Afghan police capacity. He claims that there was little or no coordination among NATO Allies or between U.S. agencies and nongovernmental organizations engaged in law enforcement during his time in theater.26 Wingfield’s observations are supported by a recent British parliamentary report that condemns the lack of consensus between both international institutions and individual countries regarding their respective approaches to police capacity-building.27 Fortunately, an agreement in February 2011 among the Afghan Ministry of Interior, NTM-A, EUPOL, and the German Police Program Team has belatedly led to a standardized method of instruction for all ANP training.28
Tension can occur between deployed military and police forces because of different organizational cultures and operating procedures, but more general interagency differences can create incoherent national approaches to building indigenous police capacity. The United States has particular problems with interagency coordination as the Departments of Justice, State, Treasury, Transportation, and Defense are all involved in some aspect of foreign police training. There is no central coordination of separate assistance programs and no agency has the lead role. As a result, programs are frequently disconnected, while training tends to be duplicated and is sometimes inappropriate for a particular country. Lieutenant General Peter Chiarelli, USA (Ret.), former commander of Multi-National Corps–Iraq, has gone as far as describing the interagency process on stability operations as “broken for our lifetime.”29
Developing Police Capacity
The reluctance to use the military in a policing role is understandable, but for countries that lack formed paramilitary police units, there is no real alternative to using soldiers to provide basic law enforcement, at least in the early stages of a stability operation. Based on recent experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, current British doctrine acknowledges that military commanders are likely to be drawn into policing and internal security matters and will have to take the lead in basic police training.30 Military police (MPs) will naturally play a lead role in such circumstances. In Iraq, thousands of U.S. Army MPs conducted a full range of policing and penal tasks. After 2006, MPs, together with international police liaison officers and interpreters, formed Police Transition Teams that were embedded with the IPS throughout Iraq. Some analysts favor MPs taking the lead in providing dedicated police forces for stability operations. Matthew Modarelli, an Office of Special Investigations agent, advocates the use of formed units of MPs to help promote “police protocols” in all forces, foreign and local, deployed during COIN operations.31 A study by the German institute Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik in 2010 also recommended an enhanced role for German MPs, advocating the expansion of the Feldjäger into a gendarmerie force capable of taking the lead in law enforcement and indigenous police training during the most challenging stabilization missions.32 MPs will probably continue to undertake major training and mentoring roles in future large-scale stability operations. However, as MPs have important functions in the full spectrum of military operations, there appears to be little general support for proposals such as Modarelli’s. MPs are soldiers and therefore lack the specialized expertise of civilian law enforcement agencies. On their own, they cannot offer more than a temporary solution to local police capacity-building needs.
UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti rebuilds and reforms National Police
Decades of experience of stability operations reinforce the importance of well-trained, well-led indigenous police forces and indicate that relatively small numbers of highly trained police officers prove more effective than larger numbers of semi-trained police rushed into service. The development of effective police takes time and resources and, as noted above, adequate security measures that provide a protected space for the development of new or reformed law enforcement agencies. Security can be delivered by deployed foreign military forces, but their limitations in a law enforcement role have led to a growing demand for what are generically referred to as Stability Police Units (SPUs). These units, with paramilitary capabilities, can deal with public order problems, tackle violent criminals, and assist and strengthen local “high-end” police forces. An Italian Carabinieri unit, for example, played a key role in the training and leadership development of the new paramilitary Iraq National Police in 2007. As formed units, SPUs can deploy more rapidly into more dangerous environments than individual police. SPUs have also proved cost effective, being more employable in public order situations than soldiers and 50 percent less costly than individual UN police.33 Arguably, they provide the best means of managing the crucial transition from armed conflict to peace and stability. The SPU concept has been described as follows: “Stability Police are robust and armed police units that are capable of performing specialized law enforcement and public order functions that require disciplined group action. They are trained in and have the capacity for the appropriate use of less-than-lethal as well as lethal force.”34
Efforts have been made to establish a consensus on the roles, missions, and standards required of SPUs, as well as the appropriate relationship with deployed military forces and other operational enablers. Since its establishment in 2005 under G8 auspices, the Center of Excellence for Stability Police Units (COESPU) in Italy has led in training and developing SPU capabilities, especially for conflict-prone African states. By 2010, the COESPU had trained around 3,000 stability police and deployed mobile assistance teams to provide additional advisory and technical assistance to COESPU graduates.
Since the UN deployed FPUs for the first time in 1999 in Kosovo, the number deployed has grown to over 60 in 2010, comprising more than 6,000 police officers. The DPKO has also developed detailed policy guidance to assist countries contributing FPUs to UN missions. These instructions cover command and control and operational procedures. The instructions place emphasis on crucial issues such as the use of force and the norms and values that underpin the UN approach to policing.35 Nevertheless, the harmonization and accommodation of different policing models and cultures are a broader problem for both the United Nations and other international institutions and can only be resolved over time by the continued development of common standards and doctrine.
SPUs/FPUs and equivalent units do address public order problems, but they do not deal with routine law and order functions and, therefore, do not represent a comprehensive solution to the objective of achieving police primacy. Capacity-building is not one of the UN FPU core tasks, and although some units might be able to assist with training programs on a case by case basis, such work is normally restricted to public order management tasks. Domestic police commitments mean that high-quality paramilitary police forces will only ever be available in limited numbers. In the Bosnia and Kosovo operations, NATO MSUs led by Carabinieri and gendarmerie units made up less than 10 percent of the total international police force. Countries with the most professional paramilitary police forces, such as France’s Gendarmerie Nationale, are not normally leading contributors to UN FPUs. According to Lieutenant Colonel Tibor Kozma of the DPKO Police Division, major donor nations such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Ghana often deploy police contingents that lack appropriate training, experience, or expertise in either direct law enforcement or training and mentoring roles.36 Other potential SPU-contributing countries, particularly from Africa, lack the financial resources to equip units to UN standards.
SPUs have become an essential partner alongside military contingents and individual international police advisors. In the United States, which lacks a national paramilitary police force, this has sparked significant debate about the desirability of establishing a constabulary force capable of undertaking high-end police tasks.37 A 2009 RAND study recommended an American Stability Police Force formed within the U.S. Marshals Service that could deploy a battalion-sized unit within 30 days. Predictably, the RAND report acknowledged that any proposal to create a U.S. paramilitary police force would run into resistance from entrenched bureaucracies in the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State.38
Much of the civilian police effort in stability operations, especially regarding training and mentoring of indigenous community police forces, will remain the responsibility of individual police advisors who are normally retired civilian police officers or serving officers who have taken a leave of absence from their local forces. These individuals are normally loaned or seconded to the United Nations and other international security institutions by national governments. The United States contracts the process out to the private sector. Companies, typically DynCorp or Civilian Police International LLC, are responsible for the recruitment, predeployment training, and management of deployed police officers. Concerns about accountability and political sensitivities have generally prevented European states from adopting this approach. However, governments have attempted to increase the pool of competent police and other criminal justice personnel available for stability operations. Countries with paramilitary police forces have added new stability roles to standing national capacities.
In 2004, Australia established an International Deployment Group (IDG) within its Federal Police for use in regional stability operations. Unlike most other countries, the IDG also provides robust predeployment training that includes enabling skills such as teaching, advising, coaching, and community development.39 After a poor showing in Iraq, the United Kingdom has also taken a number of measures to improve its ability to deploy police overseas. A UK doctrine for policing peace support operations was released in 2007, and the UK national security strategy in 2008 mandated the creation of a 1,000-strong Civilian Stabilisation Capacity unit. This development included a pool of 500 police officers, which theoretically allowed up to 150 officers to be deployed on a single mission.
International security institutions still struggle to provide adequate numbers of well-trained police in a timely fashion. Progress to implement national pools of on-call police officers recommended by the Brahimi Report of 2000 has been slow and inconsistent.40 As noted earlier, the standing UN SPC enables police assets to be deployed rapidly in a crisis to assess the operational police requirement. This helped establish the UN police component on operations in Chad (2007) and Haiti (2010), but as the SPC numbers no more than 50 senior officers, it is no more than a modest enhancement to UN capabilities. The EU’s Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability, introduced in 2007 with a mandate to plan, conduct, and support EU peacekeeping missions, is an equally modest improvement that has unfortunately not helped to recruit satisfactory numbers of police advisors for the EUPOL mission in Afghanistan.
A recent report by the Stimson Center recommended three new capacities for the United Nations: a Standing UN Rule of Law Capacity of 400 experts to plan, deploy, and lead new missions; a standby UN Police Reserve of 16,200 officers; and a Police, Justice, and Corrections Senior Leadership Reserve to provide short-notice, deployable senior police and rule of law experts.41 The authors claim that their proposal would greatly increase cost-effectiveness by creating timely, deployable UN policing assets at modest extra cost. Such initiatives are entirely in keeping with the need to address the growing demand for international police. Regrettably, donor countries have shown little interest in increasing UN funding, while the peacekeeping training budget has been cut as the main financial contributor countries seek to rein in government spending.
Despite the prevailing pessimism, it is worth stressing that there are examples of effective police capacity-building programs, which illustrate best practice and demonstrate that national and international security institutions can learn from past mistakes. The reform of the Haiti National Police (HNP) since 2004 has been generally successful, even allowing for the severe setback caused by the earthquake in 2010.42 A number of factors have helped this process. First, police reform was viewed as a political rather than just a technical process by Haiti’s leaders. Second, the foreign military and police presence provided by the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti created a level of security that permitted a thoroughly professional police recruit training program. The HNP has become professional, introduced vetting, taken action against police abuses, and introduced women into the force, while effective financial support and regulation has ensured regular salaries and raised officer morale. As a result, the police service was transformed from being the least to the most trusted state institution in Haiti in just 5 years.43 Since 2008, the U.S.-led Focused District Development (FDD) initiative has provided arguably the first effective and comprehensive police training and support package in Afghanistan.44 FDD combines a mixture of formal training for ANP units in regional centers with followup support by a Police Mentoring Team consisting of civilian police advisors, military police, and interpreters. The complete 10-month FDD cycle consists of assessment, formal training, and a post-training support program. While ANP units are in training, police work in the district is covered by well-trained paramilitary Afghan National Civilian Order Police. The FDD curriculum is essentially paramilitary and is taught by military officers, but it has provided those ANP units trained so far with the necessary survival skills for local police operations during an ongoing insurgency.
Both of these cases illustrate the need to provide a secure environment long enough to allow a rigorous indigenous police training and reform program. In Haiti’s case, police capacity-building has undoubtedly been helped by a supportive government, a comparatively benign security environment, and the fact that the police development process has been part of broader security sector and governance reform. Stability operations in small states also allow a relatively high ratio of international police to population. This facilitates the establishment of security, which is a major reason why the measures used to stabilize Kosovo and Bosnia proved difficult to replicate in Iraq and Afghanistan with their much larger physical size and populations.
Despite gradual improvements in the capability of police missions, the international community is likely to continue to struggle to field effective police forces in sufficient numbers in a timely fashion during major crises. Military forces, supplemented by SPUs, will have to lead in establishing initial law and order in most postconflict environments, while the development of indigenous police capacity will still largely depend on a mix of rerolled MPs, individual civilian police advisors, and private contractors provided by various national and international institutions and agencies. Not surprisingly, the most successful interventions are likely to be in small states with manageable security problems and modest capacity-building needs.
“Manageable” and “modest” may well characterize the future of stability operations. Major campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved to be difficult, protracted, expensive, and politically damaging for the United States and its allies. Painful recent experience, combined with the financial fallout from the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, has significantly reduced the appetite of Western governments for large-scale military intervention.45 Yet the need for assistance to fragile and conflict-prone states is unlikely to diminish. According to the World Development Report 2011, one and a half billion people live in areas affected by “fragility, conflict, or large-scale organized criminal violence.”46 Nevertheless, future stability operations are likely to emphasize lower costs and less intensive and intrusive interventions focused on a limited number of key issues such as the rule of law, the security sector, and civil administration. A lighter footprint in future stabilization missions will place greater emphasis on partnerships with indigenous security forces. The mentorship and training of indigenous police forces will be a critical element of these missions, not least to address the threat presented by the growing nexus between terrorist and criminal enterprises.
The U.S. State Department–directed Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership provides an example of such a capacity-building approach. Since 2005, several U.S. departments and agencies have cooperated to strengthen regional counterterrorism capabilities through military and law enforcement improvement programs along with initiatives to promote democratic governance. Rather than a substantial foreign police and military presence, more stress will have to be placed earlier on the local ownership of security. In practical terms, according to Laurie Nathan, a specialist in security sector reform, it means “the reform of security policies, institutions and activities in a given country must be designed, managed and implemented by local actors rather than external actors.”47 As noted at the beginning of this article, local ownership of security has long been recognized as an essential element in a sustainable peace process and a prerequisite for a successful exit strategy for deployed foreign security forces.
Early local ownership may force Western states to be more modest about the results they can expect from police capacity-building efforts, especially in societies with high levels of illiteracy and corruption. Shaping indigenous police culture will prove a significant long-term challenge in these environments and will best be addressed by embedded police advisors with an understanding of local customs and values. With a more limited foreign presence on stability operations, police advisors may have to accept basic standards of competence and behavior, although the success of a capacity-building mission will still depend on officers being perceived by the local population as legitimate and accountable. Normative standards of behavior will likely remain more important in this context than technical policing skills, and assistance may best be directed toward those states where there is already a strong political commitment to police reform and development.
Policing needs on stability operations will vary. Universal “lessons,” or more dangerously, “templates,” must be applied with caution. Nevertheless, the experience of numerous police missions has demonstrated a need for both paramilitary police units to work with military forces to establish law and order and police advisors and trainers able to develop local community-based police assets to sustain a durable peace. A safe and secure environment must be established early on to prevent the loss of popular support for the stabilization process, but the training of indigenous police should not be rushed simply to supply boots on the ground. Quality training, mentorship, and support will remain prerequisites for success, whether police are prepared for high-end tasks or for traditional law enforcement duties. Experience suggests that police officers rather than the military should take the lead in the development of indigenous police, although the latter may well remain essential to establish the secure space in which local police can receive the longer term training and support they need.
The provision of effective policing for stability operations will continue to challenge the international community, although the achievement of host nation police primacy will remain as critical as ever to the successful transition from internal conflict to sustainable peace. The problems discussed herein defy easy solutions. Even in long-established international institutions such as the United Nations and NATO, different perceptions of national interests, domestic political constraints, and bureaucratic inertia continue to have a negative impact on the policing dimension of stability operations. Consequently, although national and international staffs have worked hard to improve policing issues over the last 20 years, their efforts remain a work in progress. PRISM