Kabul, November 2016. On November 14, the European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL) held a ceremony to mark the end of its mission. Dignitaries such as EUPOL’s Afghan, EU and international partners gathered at the EUPOL headquarters to take stock of the progress achieved to date. The EU representatives affirmed their continued support for civilian policing in Afghanistan.
The member states of the European Union took the decision to end EUPOL’s mandate back in 2014. Established in July 2007, EUPOL partnered with the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) in supporting the development of a civilian Afghan National Police (ANP) force that works within the framework of the rule of law and human rights. Key areas of cooperation have included police training, gender and human rights, criminal investigative work, strategy and policy development as well as oversight and accountability.
Partnerships key to progress
In her opening speech, the EUPOL Head of Mission Ms. Pia Stjernvall hailed EUPOL’s nine-year collaboration with the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs. She described it as having been fruitful particularly with regard to civilian policing and police-prosecutor cooperation. “It is vital to consider the police as part of the wider justice sector,” she said.
“Having advocated a civilian policing approach, we are proud to witness a change of mindset with regard to community policing and female policing. The CEO of the Afghan government Mr. Abdullah Abdullah has spoken in an encouraging way about the need for community policing and I am delighted to have had the support of the First Lady, Mrs. Rula Ghani, in bolstering the role of women in the police force. The MoI has also shown a willingness towards the integration of female officers in police work,” she noted.
Ms. Stjernvall underlined that all such progress had been achieved through joint efforts with other international partners such as NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and the German Police Project Team.
Gaining trust through community policing
The Afghan Minister of Interior Affairs Mr. Taj Mohammad Jahid thanked EUPOL for its commitment to the professionalisation and reform of the MoI over the years. He especially highlighted the establishment of the Afghan Police Staff College and the Crime Management College as well as community policing, which EUPOL introduced to Afghanistan. “Through community policing, the Afghan police will gain the trust of the people.” He added that MoI policy development had benefited from cooperation with EUPOL.
Positive change has taken place
“It makes me proud when the Afghan Minister of Interior refers to very specific change that has taken place. This change took place in true partnership between EUPOL and Afghans. We have fought this fight together. The progress in criminal policing, training institutions, leadership, good governance and female policing is a space we should jointly be proud of,” stated Mr. Kenneth Deane, the EU Civilian Operations Commander.
“The basic principle of policing is very simple – it applies to all nations in the world and Afghanistan is no exception to this: Policing is about protecting and serving everyone irrespective of creed, culture, politics or religion.”
Mr. Deane paid special tribute to EUPOL’s Afghan staff, without whom the mission would not have been able to function.
Enduring legacy allows Afghan police to move ahead
“Without EUPOL, there would not have been a vision for civilian policing in Afghanistan,” declared Ambassador Franz-Michael Mellbin, the European Union Special Representative and Head of the EU Delegation to Afghanistan. "EUPOL’s substantial efforts to make female policing an integral part of the ANP is one of the most important legacies of EUPOL. Other areas of clear progress are criminal policing, various rule of law elements and work done in the provinces – together, all these represent a legacy that will allow Afghanistan to move ahead for many years to come. It is now our duty to work together to make sure that the seeds that were sown take root.”
Mr. Mellbin also paid tribute to everyone who had served in the EUPOL mission, some of whom had paid the ultimate price. He lauded the mission members’ service to a European ideal and more importantly, to the Afghan people.
High-risk environment – clear need for police service
Resolute Support Deputy Commander, Lieutenant General Sandy Storrie also underlined the unique working challenges to police work in Afghanistan. “EUPOL has been a highly valued partner – first of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and now of Resolute Support – in the training and modernisation of the Afghan National Police. The dangers that EUPOL advisers have faced in the last nine years and the recent high-profile attacks point to the need for an Afghan police force that is able to prevent attacks like these. The Afghan National Police is subject to a level of violence that no domestic police should have to face. The endurance of the Afghan police in the face of this is testament to its commitment to the Afghan people.”
Personal witness to progress
EUPOL Senior National Affairs Adviser General Siddique Noor has been witness to 15 years of progress, first as a senior adviser with the German Police Project Team from 2001 and with EUPOL since 2007. “The hard work of Afghan and international actors has brought positive change to Afghanistan since 2001. Now we know that we are headed in the right direction as the Afghan police is more qualified and professional than in earlier years.”
As EUPOL winds down its activities in Afghanistan, Head of Mission Ms. Stjernvall reported to the Civilian Operations Commander that EUPOL Afghanistan was a mission well accomplished. In the nine years of EUPOL’s work, close to 2 000 mission members trained over 31 000 Afghan police officers.
Continued EU support for the Afghan police beyond 2016
In December 2014, the member states of the European Union decided to terminate the mandate of EUPOL come December 31, 2016. EUPOL prepared comprehensive plans for phasing out its activities by the end of 2016 – chief among them has been sustainable transition to Afghan partners.
The European Union has a long-term commitment to Afghanistan and its people and has pledged 15.1 billion euros for the development of the Afghan state until 2020.
The EU will also continue to support the professionalisation of the Afghan police and the application of the rule of law, as part of a broader international effort beyond 2016. The support entails funding from the EU Commission and bilaterally from the member states of the EU. Furthermore, as decided by the 28-nation bloc, the EU will continue its support in the field of civilian policing by maintaining a team of experts in Kabul to provide strategic advice to its Afghan counterparts, in particular the MoI and the Afghan National Police, with a view to consolidate EUPOL's achievements and build upon its legacy.
As the Civilian Operations Commander Kenneth Deane put it during EUPOL’s closure ceremony: “This is the end of a chapter, not the end of the book.”