EUPOL Afghanistan: Civilian Policing in a War Environment
EUPOL Afghanistan was established in 2007 as a non-executive Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) civilian mission, and came to an end in December 2016. Its primary objective was to strengthen the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the domain of civilian policing.
EUPOL did contribute to the reform of the ANP, which was one condition for Afghanistan’s long-term stability. At the EU level, the Mission contributed to shaping the current civilian CSDP – and the EU is today better equipped to plan and run civilian missions. Yet the nature and scale of the challenges that EUPOL faced were huge, and the Mission was not designed and resourced to effectively tackle those challenges.
Most specifically, the fact that the Mission focused on civilian policing (and ‘community policing’) while most of the ANP was involved in counter-insurgency operations – and was therefore going through a process of militarisation – was a recurrent problem. Even the concept of ‘civilian policing’ seems to have been problematic as it suffered from at times diverging national interpretations rather than being a Mission-wide well-understood concept.
In this context, lessons identified include the necessity, first, to sufficiently prepare the mission and identify its objectives and added-value in relation to the local context and other international actors; second, to properly calibrate the division of responsibilities among EU monitoring bodies based on their respective functions (political vs. operational, HQ vs. field); and, third, to ensure a smooth transition between the mission and follow-on actors or programmes.
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