Monday, March 30, 2009

Scots police chief fights to bring order to Helmand - Scotsman

THE former head of a Scottish police force has landed a key job helping to enforce law and order in one of the world's most dangerous regions.

Ian Oliver, who was chief constable of the Grampian force from 1990 to 1998, has been appointed head of rule of law, justice and security in the Helmand province of south-west Afghanistan.

He is working closely with the Afghan National Police and the British military, heading the rule of law unit within the Foreign and Commonwealth Office-led Provincial Reconstruction Team.One of his main jobs is to oversee the training of the local police, many of whom are widely seen as corrupt.The 69-year-old has been tasked with trying to reform the justice system in the war-torn region and has already come under heavy assault, narrowly escaping a suicide bomb attack.
Ten days ago, 13 people were killed in the incident which happened just 500 yards from the police headquarters where Mr Oliver is stationed.

Mr Oliver left his post in Grampian following the publication of a damning report into the force's handling of the Scott Simpson murder inquiry and revelations about his private life. The nine-year-old was murdered by a convicted paedophile near his Aberdeen home in 1997.

Since then, Mr Oliver has worked for the United Nations as a consultant on drugs and crime.While on duty in Helmand, he travels in armoured vehicles or by helicopter as many main roads are regularly booby-trapped by the Taleban.His accommodation is in "pods", described as converted shipping containers that have been reinforced to withstand bomb blasts. He also has to wear body armour most of the time.

Mr Oliver said part of his job involved trying to stem the flow of heroin into the UK. Afghanistan's opium farmers produce 90 per cent of the world's heroin – a problem made worse by the willingness of police to turn a blind eye to trafficking or in some cases even make it possible.Speaking from the city of Lashkar Gah, where he will be based for 12 months, he described Afghanistan as a "broken country".

"It has huge problems that cannot be solved in the short term," he said. "All people like me can hope to do is lay solid foundations for others to build on over the course of several decades.

"The most immediate and urgent problems that impact on the rest of the world are the insurgency and drug production, which is at record levels."This affects the rest of the world in terms of public health issues, organised crime and international terrorism.

"As well as having to deal with widespread corruption and drug trafficking, Mr Oliver is also confronted with the fact that the police are coming under frequent attack from the Taleban.Police often have fewer weapons and less training than Afghan and international troops, leaving them vulnerable to militant attacks.Last week insurgents have staged two attacks against police in southern Afghanistan, killing nine officers and wounding six others.

Mr Oliver's appointment emerged as a new US-led campaign against terrorist financing networks in Afghanistan emerged.Dozens of American drug enforcement agents are being sent in to help stem the country's massive opium trade.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "Mr Oliver is managing British civil servants who are working with the local authorities to build the justice and police system, as well as British retired police officers in the EU police mission.

"He works closely with the British military to make sure we give the best help we can to the Afghan police and army to secure their own province."It is a tough job. Years of conflict destroyed Afghan institutions, which are now being rebuilt."

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