David Blackburn

Can the Afghan police be trusted?

Can the Afghan police be trusted?
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Lindsey Hilsum, Channel 4’s Helmand correspondent asked local Police Chief, Colonel Asadullah Shirzard, if the police were sufficiently free from corruption to manage the forthcoming election. The corpulent Colonel declaimed:  “We have eradicated corruption in our police force!”

This is a seminal moment. Rudy Giuliani couldn’t do it, Sir Ian Blair failed, though that’s no surprise, and moving around Venezuela will confirm that even Hugo Chavez can’t stop his police taking a cut from the downtrodden population. But in war-torn Helmand, the perfect police force has been born.

As Hilsum notes, this is even more extraordinary when one considers that Helmand is the centre of the opium trade and that the British army have started drug testing Afghan police officers because “many of those who deal in opium use it as well”. If Colonel Shirzard’s force counts as ‘free from corruption’ in Afghanistan, I dread to think what doesn’t. To be fair the Colonel eventually conceded that he had “nearly eradicated” corruption, but even so.