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EU stymies work in Afghanistan

The former head of the EU’s police operation in Afghanistan delivers a broadside.

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LEHMANN MARTIN (Arkiv)
Foto: LEHMANN MARTIN (Arkiv)

Eupol's former head of the EU police mission in Afghanistan Kaj Vittrup - better to seek forgiveness after the fact, than to wait for the go-ahead from Brussels. Archive.

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The European Union’s high-profile police mission in Afghanistan is ineffective and suffers from top-down management from Brussels, where those without any knowledge of local conditions limit local officers in carrying out their jobs, according to the former head of Eupol in Kabul.

“We found that if we had to follow all the rules, we would never get started. We went it alone – and there was progress. With the sort of inertia there is in the EU system, the war would have been over before the green light for our proposals came from Brussels,” says Kaj Vittrup, who led Eupol in Afghanistan for two years and now works in Saudi Arabia.

Vittrup has previously been praised for his role in building up police forces in difficult areas such as Iraq, Kosova and Sudan. Apart from the European Union, he has also worked closely with the United Nations, which he says is more flexible and efficient than the EU.

As an example of the difficulties, Vittrup says that NATO and the Afghan government wanted the EU to start training and setting up a 5-6,000 officer Afghan CID department. The EU waited so long to handle the issue, that Vittrup decided it was better to seek forgiveness after the fact, than to wait for the go-ahead.

Discontent with Eupol in Afghanistan is one of the reasons that NATO is expected to set up its own civilian task force at the NATO summit in Portugal next week. Cooperation with the EU just doesn’t work.

Edited by Julian Isherwood

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