"They’re making huge strides,” Hurtado said. "When I was (in Wardak) four years ago, most of the training was done by contractors or coalition, and they’re now doing it themselves. That was encouraging to me, to come back after four years and see they’re conducting that training themselves and they’re getting better at it.”
One of the biggest obstacles remaining is a 70 percent illiteracy rate in the ranks.
"It is hard to professionalize a police force that isn't literate,” Hurtado said. "You have to write reports. You write tickets. You do interviews and look at documents. That to me is the key challenge right now. That is something that Afghan Interior Minister Mujtaba Patang is focused on. In his 10-year vision, he places a lot of importance on literacy.”
Hurtado supports lengthening initial training for recruits, which now stands at eight weeks, to match the six to nine months of training police officers receive in many other nations. Doing so would allow them to focus on more traditional skills inherent to a quality police force. While they have shown marked improvement in capability, Hurtado was quick to point out that a policeman’s training is never complete.
"They’re still emerging from fighting a counterinsurgency and being used as predominantly light infantry. We’re trying to refocus their mission to be policemen in the traditional sense,” Hurtado said. "They need to get all the officers that are out there trained so they know what they’re doing, and they can do the job that they've been tasked to do – and that’s to be the first line of defense security force in the communities,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado said leadership visits to Afghan facilities like the Wardak training center are important, as they serve to reaffirm the coalition’s enduring commitment to Afghan security and support.
"We’re still here, and even though we turn over a training center to them, we haven’t forgotten about them,” Hurtado said. "2014 is a deadline for most of the coalition leaving, but there will still be a presence. The Afghan National Security Forces are in the lead for security. Every police officer that we can graduate from these training centers will add to the security in their local villages and the cities around Afghanistan.”
Story by: U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Alex Farver
NTM-A/CSTC-A Public Affairs