Good Cop, Bad Cop: Afghanistan's National Police

Police Is Critical Part in Fighting Insurgency, But Many Problems Remain

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President Obama wants to begin withdrawing American forces from Afghanistan next summer, but his ability to do that will largely depend on how quickly Afghan security forces can be trained to take over the fight.

While the Afghan army has made some strides in recent years, the national police force has developed a reputation for drug abuse, illiteracy and desertion.

Earlier this month The New York Times reported that up to 19 Afghan police officers from southwest of Kabul defected to the Taliban en masse, taking their guns with them and burning down their own station house.

On paper, the Afghan National Police (ANP) are supposed to be about 120,000 strong, but no one knows for sure the actual number of policemen on duty, nor how many of them are good cops and how many are bad.

What is certain is that the U.S. has spent nine years and more than $7 billion building and training the Afghan police force. "60 Minutes" wanted to find out what has become of that investment.

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Full Segment: Good Cop, Bad Cop
Extra: Kabul's Police Chief
Extra: Working With The Afghan Police

We began with the three-star American general now in charge of their training. "The police have to succeed," Lt. General William Caldwell told CNN's Anderson Cooper.

"If the Afghan police fail, we fail?" Cooper asked.

"We do," Caldwell replied.

Caldwell began overseeing training of the Afghan security forces last November. He's the highest ranking officer ever assigned to the mission, a sign of how important it is and how badly it has been going.

"The sooner we can develop an effective police force, the sooner U.S. forces will be able to have less of an active combat role," Caldwell explained.

"If we had a better-trained Afghan police at this point, that would save American lives?" Cooper asked.

"There's no question that'd be true," Caldwell replied.

When Caldwell took over, he found more than half of the Afghan police had not received any formal training whatsoever; most of them couldn't even read or write.

We visited the National Police Academy in Kabul, and were shown well-drilled officer candidates marching in unison. But a video, shot by an American instructor in 2008 at a basic training course in Southern Afghanistan, tells a different story: in the video, dozens of recruits were unable to do jumping jacks in sync. Some were unable or unwilling to do the exercises at all.

It shows that while Afghans may be known as fierce fighters, teaching them to become professional police officers or even do basic exercises is a massive challenge.

Not only are most of the police illiterate, but it turns out many of them also have a drug problem.

"There's one study said ten to twenty percent use or smoke hash and other forms of drugs," Cooper told Caldwell.

"And that's probably an accurate statistic too based on what we've seen," he replied.

Another video, taken by a member of the 82nd Airborne, shows an Afghan policeman smoking marijuana before going on patrol - evidently not an uncommon ritual.

"You must have known you were taking on a huge challenge when you got this assignment. Were you surprised, though, at what you found with the police?" Cooper asked.

"That's a great question. I felt very comfortable comin' in, workin' with the army piece. I knew the police portion would be a challenge," Caldwell replied, with a slight grin on his face.

"You're being diplomatic," Cooper pointed out.

"Yeah, I've got a great team that's workin' with me that's really helped me work through these challenges of the police," Caldwell replied.