Policing Kabul James Bond style
In the past four years, 5,000 young men have graduated from Afghanistan’s national police academy. After three months of training, new recruits join a fledgling police force that’s been tasked not only with reducing ordinary crime but also fighting terrorism. There’s no doubt it’s a dangerous job. Casualties among Afghan policemen outnumber casualties of Afghan soldiers fourfold. But in recent years there has been growing international interest in helping to train and reform the Afghan national police force as the guarantor of law and order in the country.
Last summer, FRONTLINE/World reporter Nadene Ghouri traveled to Kabul, the nation’s capital, to report on the efforts of one of the city’s leading police units: the Criminal Investigations Department, or CID. There, she met General Ali Shah Paktiawal, the department’s brash, abrasive, and seemingly ubiquitous chief. Dubbed the James Bond of Kabul, General Paktiawal is known for showing up at almost every major crime scene. He says, “There are two words not in my vocabulary. One is ‘problem,’ and the other is ‘fear.’ I don’t know fear.”
Paktiawal agreed to allow Ghouri and a small camera crew to film the team’s daily activities.
The footage Ghouri captured is a raw glimpse into Afghan policing at the street level. Over the course of several days, the team investigates a terrorist bombing attack, kidnappings, and armed robbery. They also conduct raids on an illegal black market for police equipment, and a notorious haven for the city’s drug addicts.
Twenty-four hours a day, General Paktiawal is surrounded by his hand-picked bodyguards — men he’s nicknamed Bulldozer, Switch, and Scorpion. Officially, they are responsible for protecting Paktiawal from assassination attempts, but Paktiawal’s protectors also take part in law enforcement activities, despite their lack of police training.
Hamed, or “Bulldozer,” tells Ghouri that he has a reputation for aggression. “I usually wear gloves. They are very useful. I wear them during the operations. There might be cars or some glass to break, or we catch some murderers and have to hit them in the face or round the back of the head,” says Bulldozer.
Ghouri catches Paktiawal and the CID team at a critical moment in Kabul’s evolving security situation. NATO forces are about to hand over control of the city to local police and the Afghan military. At the same time, terrorist attacks on the city are on the rise. Once considered relatively well-protected, the capital has come under brazen attacks when the Taliban targeted several government ministries in the heart of the city. Ghouri raises the question: Is this the force to bring law and order to Afghanistan?
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