Addicts in the Afghan police force

At training centres, up to 41 per cent have tested positive

Addicts in the Afghan police force

Photograph by Hitoshi Yamada/ Zuma/ Keystone

In Afghanistan, the illegal drug trade helps pay for Taliban weapons, explosives and training. To rebuild this war-ravaged country, counter-narcotics efforts are crucial—but according to a new report for the U.S. Congress, much of the Afghan police force is addicted to drugs.

At regional training centres, 12 to 41 per cent of police recruits tested positive for drugs, notes the report, prepared by the U.S. Government Accountability Office. And that number could even be deceptively low: opiates leave the system quickly, and “many recruits who tested negative for drugs have shown opium withdrawal symptoms later in their training,” it says. The report only confirmed what was already widely believed. Just last year, one U.K. official suggested some 60 per cent of police in Helmand province, a hotbed of narcotics production, were addicted.

This isn’t the first mark against the Afghan police force. Critics say it is badly trained and corrupt, with some reports suggesting that locals fear them as much as the Taliban. While the international community has long treated them as a crucial part of reconstruction, “the truth is, there wasn’t much infrastructure to reconstruct. There was no police, so they had to start from scratch,” says Lael Adams, a graduate student at Boston University who previously worked for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development in Afghanistan. An Afghan police officer’s duty, then, “is to serve a state that hasn’t served them.”

With an estimated two million Afghans struggling with drug addiction, the problem goes well beyond the police. Still, U.S. officials are looking at ways to curb addiction among officers, including new rehab clinics at training centres. But there are larger challenges in the way of creating an effective police force. “Building a state means building a state of mind,” Adams says. “That sense of national pride is key to forming an effective police force, and the international community can’t create that by pumping in more money.”


Addicts in the Afghan police force

  1. It takes more than to emplace the " King of Kabul ",and to train a police force from a population steeped in corruption and drug abuse,to make a country "civilized". In the meanwhile a occupying force, or forces, roam the country side and kill members of " The Taliban ",who do not wear uniform.Fathers, brothers, uncles etc. of the local population are killed daily as so called" Members of the Taliban".But will somebody please tell me how to recognize a Taliban ,since they do not wear a uniform ! In 9 years of fighting we have gone exactely nowhere in Afghanistan,and the Taliban is spreading to Pakistan .Do we really think that we can win a war that the Soviet Union could not win in 10 years? How about Korea and Vietnam? Lets get out of there and save the taxpayer a lot of money !

    • I agree. let's get out. It's a lost wasteful cause.

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