Helmand Province? Yes, this makes a change from Ardoyne on the Twelfth...
Reforming the Afghan National Police is an essential part of the military effort in Afghanistan. During day two of our special series Lesley-Anne Henry travels to the provincial capital of Helmand to meet the men using the skills honed in Northern Ireland to help build the new force
“This is the first Twelfth of July that I haven't spent standing at the Ardoyne shop fronts since about 1993,” Belfast police officer Peter Leckey said.
Instead of policing parades and riots in a soggy north Belfast, the 44-year-old PSNI inspector is training and mentoring dozens of Afghan National Police (ANP) officers in the blistering heat of the Helmand.
Based at Lashkar Gah — the British Task Force headquarters in Afghanistan — he has spent the last six months trying to reform the fledgling police force into a credible service accepted by the local population.
“In terms of a police service it is a police service in it's infancy and is very different from what you'd expect to find in Europe and the United Kingdom. But that's simply because of the circumstances in which they find themselves in.
“At the moment, their role is very much a security role — guarding checkpoints, guarding key personalities, key places and where necessary fighting the insurgency alongside ISAF troops and the Afghan National Army.
“By definition we talk about policing and think about community policing and whereas that will ultimately be the goal for the ANP the circumstances for that development aren't exactly favourable. The phrase the military use is, it's very kinetic — there is a lot going on.”
Omagh-born Royal Irish Regiment officer Major Gareth Duncan (37) has been deployed to Helmand for nine months and is drawing on experience working with the RUC and PSNI in Tyrone and Fermanagh to train the new policemen and women.
He added: “I've worked many years with the police in joint patrolling, planning and training. While I wouldn't say it's similar, there are definitely experiences that have come across from Northern Ireland to help me in this role.
“Just being able to understand that the police are different from the Army, they've got a different agenda. We are there to protect on the periphery while the police do community policing, investigating skills.
“It's a slow process but a worthwhile process. There's no time frame for the time we'll be here but we'll be here until the job is done and we feel that we are leaving behind a security force that can both look after themselves and be able to manage themselves.”
The ANP is infamous for being corrupt but Belfast man Captain John Steele (29) believes the steps they have taken to make them accountable will help to kick start day-to-day life.
The Royal Military Police officer, who has been training the ANP in the towns of Helmand, has come into close contact with the Taliban.
“All of the troops here who have done the police mentoring have encountered the Taliban at some stage and we have actually suffered losses as a result. Sgt Ben Ross was killed in May by a suicide bomber in Gereshk.
“It would be difficult to say how hard it has been. It has been difficult but you can see the progress that we have made.
“In the places that we have been to you can see a growth in the local activity and that people can get day to day groceries and if the Taliban are stopping them the police are quite keen to kick start day to day life and keep that going.
“You do meet different receptions, but I would say on the whole where we gain their trust then that trust is reciprocated and really they are glad to see us and the Afghan Police.”