Kunduz, February 2013. “I never said that, these people don’t speak the truth!”  The Criminal Investigation Chief looks at his colleagues of the Provincial Command Team in Kunduz searching for support and a glimpse of encouragement in the eyes of EUPOL Mentor Hanneke Brouwer. It is ice cold in the classroom and the temperature drops a few degrees more, while the CID-chief apologizes for insulting the mentor of General Andarabi, his boss, the Provincial Chief of Kunduz. The team waits for more to come.  Obviously there is a crisis and the story unfolds. Yesterday the CID-chief left angry because he was subjected to a body search against earlier assurances that this wouldn’t be the case.  Assurances the mentor supposedly had given. Now he is back and apologizes. The Dutch EUPOL Officer looks a bit wary and doesn’t show any sign of encouragement, she also waits for more to come.  “I didn’t say any bad words about you, I respect you”, the experienced CID-er has lost his earlier bravura and is almost frantically looking for acknowledgment of his predicament.  He looks for a sign from the EUPOL mentor, a sign to say it is okay, he is off the hook.  “I was angry, yes that is true and maybe I raised my voice but what they say I said, I didn’t say.” 

The members of the Provincial Command Team start nodding and look very relieved when EUPOL mentor Hanneke shows a glimpse of a smile.  She turns the agonizing moment into a learning experience for the whole team.  “Thank you for saying this and thank you for letting the team know what happened, it is good to have open discussions and acknowledge mistakes so we can all learn from it.” Still she doesn’t let the Police Chief of the hook: “Now we have two versions of what happened and I will ask these other people again what went on”, EUPOL mentor Hanneke answers.

It is the second day of the four weeks Provincial Command Training in Kunduz, especially for the team as a whole.  It involves teachers from the Staff College travelling to Kunduz to give courses on several subjects like Rule of Law, Leadership, Communication, Strategy etcetera.   The Provincial Commander is happy with this outcome of some negotiations with the Staff College: “The advantage is that we learn as a team and  we can use the lessons  to develop our plans for the future,  learn together and get to know more about one another”, he says as he gazes around the 16 men of his team.

EUPOL mentor Hanneke Brouwer came up with the suggestion as a way to support the Provincial Command Team. “It is also practical for the team as everybody knows the same subjects at the same time and finishes the course at the same time.

Otherwise it would have taken much longer to have the whole team on the same level. Normally only half or a third of the team can go to a course at the Staff College at the same time.  The first part of the Provincial Command Course is about Rule of Law. EUPOL trainers Jan Gras and Kees Poelma are specialists in that field and are merciless when the police chiefs present their statements. “Nobody will be convicted”, EUPOL trainer Kees Poelma comments.

Why not? EUPOL trainer Jan Gras a former prosecutor explains: “You have to have all the seven steps in your statement. Where does it say anything about the injury, where is the intention?” The Chiefs are not convinced. “This is only the first statement”, one of them claims,” We will investigate further!” The EUPOl trainers press on: “Of course it is good to investigate further but you have to seize the moment when the subject first starts talking. Get as much information as possible then you have saved a lot of time and effort.”

For EUPOL mentor Hanneke Brouwer, the kick off for the Provincial Command Course was a success although a challenge. “It wasn’t easy not to take the insult personally and of course it made me aware of the fragility of a mentoring relationship”, Hanneke comments. Still the general stood by her and took the incident serious by insisting on a public apology.  Being a female advisor in a country like Afghanistan is special and rare.

Hanneke has two generals in her life, as she puts it herself and while the first one was asked if a female Police Commissioner would be acceptable, the current Provincial Commander General Andarabi was confronted with her when he was appointed last November. Hanneke: “Of course it makes a difference that a Language Assistant is always present when I meet the general and I have the impression he and the team view me as a kind of special type. We have a respectful and friendly relationship”.

For Christmas the general gave Hanneke a beautifully embroidered Afghan dress, showing that he has indeed eyes for the female side of his mentor.