The first visit to Afghanistan by the UK Ministry of Defense Police (MDP) saw officers help train newly-qualified local police in some of the most dangerous locations in Helmand province.
The six month deployment by the MDP to Afghanistan was spent building the capacity of their Afghan counterparts in a major push to bring rule of law to the country.
The first six MDP officers have returned this week having helped train the Afghan officers in southern Afghanistan, including the towns of Lashkar Gah, Musa Qala, Gereshk and Sangin.
Royal Military Police officers have also been running courses at the British Headquarters in Lashkar Gah, where the bulk of training and mentoring takes place.
Some of their training involves the use of 16-man Police Mentoring Teams (PMT) going on patrol with the Afghan National Police (ANP), which can be from anything between two-three hours and two-three days long.
Officers also make regular visits to the numerous small police check points set up by the British Forces across Helmand province, which are manned by members of the ANP.
They are mentored in a wide variety of policing skills including evidence handling, custody procedures, vehicle and personnel searches, check point procedures, patrolling (both on foot and in vehicles), local intelligence gathering, weapon handling and personal administration.
With this advice, the ANP's expertise has improved dramatically, as has their interaction with the public and their basic investigative skills. Great progress has been made and the ANP is starting to gain respect from the local population. But the challenges are huge and the mentors are starting from a low base: the ANP has had little previous professional training and rates of illiteracy and drug use are high.
Members of the MDP, RAF Police, Royal Military Police (RMP) and EUPOL are now beginning to see the fruits of their labour. The harsh conditions and continuing hostilities in Afghanistan mean that it is has been a demanding mission for the officers but they are in no doubt that it has been worth it.
Assistant Chief Constable Robert Chidley, of the MOD Police, said:
"This has been a unique challenge for our officers as this is the first time we have been able to send them outside the relative safety of military bases to interact directly with the people we are training on the ground.
"We are the only British civilian police force able to do this in Helmand because of our close relationship with the military which allows us to operate under MOD guidelines and risk assessments.
"But it means we can join our military police colleagues in training up Afghan officers in a properly structured program and give that crucial input on civilian aspects of operations.
"That has benefits for everyone in the country as a fully functioning and efficient resident police force is a key objective of the Afghan government and NATO's International Security Assistance Force."
Deputy Provost Marshal (RAF), Wing Commander Mark Wheeler, added:
"The RAF Police is proud to play its part in mentoring the ANP alongside our RMP and MOD Police colleagues. As a highly trained and professional military police force, the RAF Police is ideally suited to developing the skills of fledgling police forces in high-threat environments.
"We see the mentoring task as an enduring commitment and have a team of six currently deployed with a further team preparing for the next deployment."
Chief Inspector Paul Jordan, the head of International Policing & Secondments Office (IPSO), said:
"Afghanistan is without doubt the most challenging mission for my department to deal with.
"It is the first time that UK police have been deployed to forward positions in what is still essentially a conflict area and from my perspective MDP is probably the only civilian force which has the capability to undertake this role, at least at this time.
Officers deployed in these areas suffer considerable hardships and must be commended for their resilience and determination to succeed.
"Mentoring, monitoring and advising are difficult at the best of times but the conditions that exist in Afghanistan exacerbate the situation, none the less the officers have already made considerable progress in a very short period and have led the way for others to follow."
The Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) is a civilian Police Force, numbering some 3,500 officers and operating across the MOD estate in support of the armed services and the Defense Mission.
They have been working alongside around 60 members of 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police, based at Colchester Garrison; RAF Police officers whose Headquarters are at RAF Henlow, Bedfordshire and British officers operating in Helmand as part of the EU Policing Mission (EUPOL). They are part of a wider British policing and law enforcement effort in the Afghanistan that includes representatives of HMRC, various domestic police forces and retired officers.