Kabul, May 2016. Thirty five high ranking Afghan police officers and teachers engaged in specialized training in the areas of strategic leadership and management during a 4 day “train-the-trainers” course. Two European experts guided the Afghans on producing course curriculums on leadership and management and how to incorporate them into the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI)/ Afghan National Police (ANP) training packages.

The initiative promotes the development of the Afghan police leadership and is in line with the reform process that the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) has undertaken in the last years. It also drives forward the skilful management of resources within MoI which is essential for the sustainability of the Afghan National Police (ANP). From 30 April to 03 May, two European experts on strategic leadership from the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences discussed with the Afghan police officers principles of higher management and leadership.

Based on individual leadership functions, the MoI selected and appointed 35 high ranking police officers and teachers to participate in the “train-the-trainer” course aiming at enabling them to further disseminate the information within different Afghan police training institutions. The course curriculum provided an insight into strategic leadership. The participants learned how different components contribute to the strategic managerial process, how they relate to each other and how the external environment affects the monitoring processes. Moreover, an important role in the curriculum was given for the topics of Gender and Human Rights as well as anti-corruption issues.

Strong motivation

The Afghan counterparts impressed the trainers with their motivation and eagerness to grow as leaders. Marek Link, who has taught the strategic leadership class at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences, for more than 15 years, noted: “Personally, I was surprised to see how fast we established a connection with our participants and especially by the Afghans motivation to learn new topics.”

The course curricula focused on practical exercises and group work activities. The exercises made the students work together to find answers to strategic questions, such as ways to develop the police training in Afghanistan. Lieutenant Colonel Amanullah Asadyar, has been working as a teacher for 29 years and nowadays teaches the Management and Administration classes at the Afghan Police Staff College. “In order to provide a strategic leadership to our institutions, it is useful to use strategic planning and analysis tools, such as SWOT (Strengths, Weakness Opportunities, Threats) and SMART (Specific, Measurable, Assignable, Realistic, Time related goals). Further on, we need to plan and divide the activities amongst the members of our team”.

Moving forward

Lieutenant Colonel Amanullah Asadyar found the training initiative timely and constructive. “In 2001 I came back to work for the MoI. Since then, I have found a lot of support from our international colleagues and I have learned a lot from their knowledge and experience. I am confident on the Afghan capability to work on the development of our strategic leadership skills and I am pleased to witness the MoI reform process, heading towards a modern leadership system. I am also very happy to have been in a class together with high ranking officers such as Generals serving for the MoI as well as female police officers”

Dr. Erik Rüütel, lecturer at the Estonian Academy of Security Sciences was the second European expert providing training to the Afghan teachers. “It was such a good group! When teaching the course, we focused on our participants and we managed to connect quite easily. The Afghan students absorbed the new topics easily and showed strong commitment to learn new tools of strategic leadership, each day. While we shared our European teaching methods, the training process actually allowed us to learn from our Afghan students as well, such as ‘the tree example’”.

Major Razaie Wahida has been a sociology instructor at the Police Staff College in Kabul for more than 9 years. She found the course extremely useful, stating “The course trained us how to be systematic when fulfilling our tasks. This experience made me aware of the characteristics of a good leader. Each leader should take responsibility of the issues he encounters, have a clear vision, with defined goals and make sure his team is working together towards accomplishing them. Thus, I am committed to improve my professional managerial skills and to be an active leader. I will share the information with my students and apply the skill of managing by walking around (MBWA) which I’ve learned in the class.”

During the course, the analysis classes showed that one of the biggest challenge for the MoI is the practice of the “friend by friend” selection criteria when appointing police officers into certain positions. This represents the nomination of a friend by a friend in a managerial position, preventing the rightful and competent police officers to occupy the right positions. The issue was also observed by Razaie Wahida: “MoI’s biggest issue is the “friend by friend” practice. I believe it is up to each and every one of us to change that and I am confident that, through good long lasting strategies, Afghans can become better leaders.”

At the end of the course, Lieutenant Colonel Amanullah Asadyar noted: “I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet the European experts and be able to learn from the legacy of the European model of leadership“. The participants were assigned to produce strategic plans and present it to the European experts for review by the end of July. Thus, in the next months, with the support and advice of EUPOL advisers, our Afghan counterparts will design strategic planning and analysis products to further use in their daily managerial activities.