Falaq Niaz Samedi, a lawyer and law professor at the academy, said government officials promote poor-quality candidates and then blame the academy for turning out corrupt police.
"I was at a seminar when the deputy (interior) minister said to me, 'All police are robbers,' but I told him, 'Police are not the robbers. It is you people who are bringing in the robbers. You take all those people that you send out and the police will not be robbers.'"
When he arrived on the job, Khaliq said he was surprised to find only a handful of students in the three-year program. The academy's entrance exam had also been suspended for two years.
He immediately held nationwide exams in which 8,257 men took part. Nine hundred were selected for the academy.
But a discouraged-looking Khaliq said the government is already applying pressure to reduce the standards for entrance. Currently recruits have to have a Grade 12 education and be 18 to 25 years old, but the government wants to increase the upper age limit to 35 — presumably to accommodate more unemployed militiamen.
Khaliq said 30 years of war have devastated the country's education system and that even high school graduates today are poorly educated. Nevertheless, Khaliq is trying to shore up standards, increasing the three-year program to four to allow for one year of specialization. The curriculum has been expanded to include human rights, prisoner treatment and gender studies.
Nearly 30 women are enrolled at the academy. They study with their male counterparts but train separately and eat their lunch behind a giant white curtain, hidden from the hundreds of men in the cavernous dining halls. The female police officers are trained to protect and search other women. They are not deployed to outposts and checkpoints. At the academy they wear the gray uniform, with a longer tunic and a black headscarf.
A female recruit who goes by only one name, Spushmai, said she does not fear retaliation from insurgents who advocate a strict code of conduct for women, but that "we will be very worried after the foreigners leave."
Another fresh recruit, who wanted to practice his English, spoke haltingly.
"We are the future. We will have real training and education," said Azim Aga, 18, from northern Baghlan province. "Right now the police who are on the street are not educated and are from the jihad," a reference to Afghanistan's successive wars. "We will be proud policemen."
But pride alone will not defeat the militants.
In one Taliban attack on a police station this month, only two of the four officers had weapons, according to Khaliq. He said police have more vehicles than weapons and that barely 60 percent of the police out on the streets and in the rural outback have communications equipment.
Khaliq, who acknowledged the mountain of criticism heaped on the police, said they also make some of the greatest sacrifices, living among the insurgents, not knowing if their neighbor is Taliban.
This month in Ghazni province, Zalmai Faizi, a seven-year veteran of the national police force, buried his 5-year-old daughter and 18-year-old son. Taliban militants shot and killed them both as they sat in his parked car outside the family's home.
Faizi's voice broke, his eyes watered and he bit his lip as he recounted the killing in an interview. For a moment he couldn't speak. He clenched his fist and in a hushed voice said: "I don't want anyone to see me cry, because it will give strength to my enemies and hurt the morale of our policemen."
Kathy Gannon is AP Special Regional Correspondent for Afghanistan and Pakistan and can be followed on www.twitter.com/kathygannon
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