The United States Marine Corps is planning to implement a special reserve law enforcement battalion, according to a speech by Commandant Gen. Jim Amos on Friday, April 15. Born out of a need for unique police skills, this battalion would be different from the Military Police, which primarily deals with enforcement among military personnel. Rather, they would perform taks similar to policing and investigations in a counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency setting.
Amos gave the example of trying to unravel insurgent cells in Anbar province, Iraq, where the Marine Corps found that it had niether the investigative nor forensic skills it needed to locate bomb-makers and discovering who was moving insurgents accross the border, tasks that have more in common with cracking down on drug cartels than fighting a war. The Corps had previously seen great success with private police consultants, but then saw that they had many reservists whose regular job was in law enforcement, prompting the creation of a niche battalion of police officers and investigators.
These reservists could do much more than solve battlefield crimes. Certain challenges faced in Iraq and Afghanistan now seem better suited to professional police officers than warfighters, including crowd control and weeding out corruption from local forces. While using career police officers for policing and investigators for investigations makes perfect sense, there will also be some challenges. Part of what makes law enforcement officers so good at their job is that they are experts at working in their system, with U.S. laws and limitations, civilian oversight, and supportive yet demanding communities to protect. These assumptions and conditions often fall apart in Iraq and Afghanistan, in a war zone, and in counter-terrorism or counter-insurgency.
The law enforcement officers already opperating in Afghanistan have had the successes General Amos predicts but have also met with the above challenges. One role for law enforcement officers in these countries is providing training and guidance to the new police forces being established, a critical task for future stability. The FBI hopes to achieve this in Kabul with the Major Crimes Task Force. Together with officers from other agencies in the U.S., Britain, Canada, and France, the FBI has been assisting the Afghans with "high-level investigations in corruption, kidnapping, and organized crime." While there have been numerous significant arrests since the program was established, rule of law, transparency, and accountability, the foundation of our justice system, remain alien concepts for much of the Afghan government. Trying to impose American justice through Western cops can also be lost in translation- after all, the MCTF headquarters is an old Soviet bunker.
By Alex Olesker