K9 Unit helps Afghan border police, by Robert Galbraith

By Robert J. Galbraith, exclusive to The Suburban

Kabul, Afghanistan – Mohmad Noman, a 34-year-old member of the Afghan Border Police (ABP), leads his drug-sniffing dog Eirofi around the exterior of a tanker-trailer truck in a courtyard of the Border Police Headquarters in Kabul. Using a series of hisses while motioning with his hand, Noman seems to speak a secret language that only he and his furry colleague understand. As the dog sniffs the tires, gas tank, and the truck’s hydraulic system, it suddenly goes into an excited dance, scratching and pawing at one of the concealed hydraulic areas. Noman motions the dog to sit, then reaching into a dark gap of the truck, pulls out a plastic wrapped package containing over an ounce of pure, white heroin.
While Eirofi sits with his long pink tongue dangling out of his excited face, Noman reaches down and pats him on the head. “The drug smuggler wraps the drugs in many layers of plastic wrap, as many as six layers, trying to avoid the drug from being detected. But as you have seen, this does not impair the dog’s sniffing abilities.”
This scene is acted out every day at the ABP HQ, as part of the training program to keep the frisky German Shepherd ready for the assignment that has yet to come.
Eirofi is one of two dogs, the other named Kavero [pictured above], whose specialty is sniffing out explosives for the K9 Unit’s Dog Training Centre.
Constructed through a donation provided by the Federal Republic of Germany in June 2006, the two-building centre has a 15-dog kennel, offices, a teaching area and three vehicles for mobile dog kennels.
“Myself and my fellow canine officer, Abdul Aziz, continually train and exercise them, but we haven’t used them on any missions yet,” says the well-built Noman.
Under the auspices of EUPOL Afghanistan (European Union Police Mission in Afghanistan), the mission at the centre is to improve the capability of the ABP to detect and deter the import and export of drugs, weapons and explosives in order to provide a more stable operating environment for the people and government of Afghanistan.
“The Federal Republic of Germany constructed the training centre. It is now up to us to find further funding to purchase dogs and provide adequate support for the centre to continue on a long-term basis,” says Tom Reichelt, a mentor for Border Police Headquarters. “So we are looking for a long-term commitment from another contributor, and we have given our proposal for continued financial help to the Canadian Embassy here in Kabul. We asked for a budget of $6 million to be spread over four years, but this is the ‘deluxe proposal,’ and we realize it is possible that we may not get quite what we are asking for.”
Arif Lalani, Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan, stated Monday, “a proposal has been submitted by EUPOL in consultation with the police advisor at the Canadian Embassy (in Kabul) which we will be considering. Canada is the third largest contributor to EUPOL.” (Canada has 36 Canadian civilian and military police in Afghanistan, most are stationed in Kandahar).
Officer Noman is concerned that funding allotted the centre may go astray as it passes through the many hands of the Afghan ministries, which skim much of the money off the salaries of the officers before it gets to them. In fact, earlier this month the Canadian military started handing over the cash salaries directly to Afghan police in the hostile Kandahar region because most officers were receiving only a fraction of the salary owed them because of this. Salaries average around $77 US a month.
His concerns are not without reason and are part of the reality of everyday Afghanistan. Some members of the police forces are corrupt. “It is important the Canadians should dispense the funding directly to the unit and police rather than through the ministries as the money may go astray and into someone else’s pocket,” explained officer Noman.
Regardless, the lives the dogs may save can outweigh the negative side of the cost of corruption. “If we had the number of dogs we need, we could bring them to the border crossings or checkpoints. It would not be as easy to bring the explosives into the cities and take lives. Presently a lot of narcotics and explosives are getting in. Dogs will be a great help.”
And nobody knows this better than Noman, who lost some good friends and colleagues to a suicide bombing six months ago. “Two of my former academy classmates and friends were killed. Fifty police were killed in that attack. It is believed the bomber crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan, and if there were dogs at that border, my friends and colleagues might still be alive.”

I would like to thank journalist Guido Schmidt and translator Sayed Haroon for contributing to this story.
2007-10-24 09:03:57

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