The big deal today was a ceremony to stand up the European Gendarmerie Force as an operational mission under NATO Training Mission – Afghanistan. This is SERIOUSLY good stuff. The bulk of our Police training and equipping work has been on building your basic anti-criminal type cops. Which made great sense a few years ago, when the insurgency had no teeth. And it’ll be great in a few years. But it’s almost exactly the wrong kind of force for the fight we’re in now (NightWatch has a good, though absolutely scathing, article on this issue here).
For the fight Afghanistan’s in now, it needs a larger para-military capability. The idea is a military force comes in and clears an area, then a para-military force comes in to hold the line and establish order, then a police force comes in to maintain order. The Afghan National Army plus Coalition forces do a great job on the ‘clear’ part. And the Afghan National Police (once they’ve been reformed) do a good job on the ‘maintain order’ part. Problem is we just don’t have the ‘hold the line and establish order’ piece. And the US doesn’t really have anything like that, so we’re probably not the best trainers for that kind of thing (we have SWAT units of course, but that’s small-scale stuff…’para-military force’ is BIG…the kind of capability and support structure you need to establish order in places like Bosnia…or Afghanistan).
So anyways, about a year ago, the Coalition and the Afghans started working this hard. And today *part* of the solution came to fruition, with Gendarmerie from a number of European nations who are REALLY good at this sort of thing joining the team here in direct contribution to the development of the Afghan National Police.
Bottom line: The European Gendarmerie Force is going to bring a TON of capability to the fight.