Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


11 EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionNot cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee
Document detailsEuropean Court of Auditors' Special Report: No.7/2015 The EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results
Legal baseArticle 287(4) TFEU; —
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Number (37041), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

11.1 The EU police mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) was established on 30 May 2007, originally with a three-year mandate. This has subsequently been extended at various times, until the end of 2016. It was set up to:

—  assist the Government of Afghanistan in implementing coherently its strategy towards sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements, especially with regard to the Afghan Uniform (Civilian) Police and the Afghan Anti-Crime Police, as stipulated in the National Police Strategy;

—  improve cohesion and coordination among international actors;

—  work on strategy development, while placing an emphasis on work towards a joint overall strategy of the international community in police reform and enhance cooperation with key partners in police reform and training, including with the NATO-led mission ISAF and the NATO Training Mission and other contributors; and

—  support linkages between the police and the wider rule of law.

11.2 This European Court of Auditors (ECA) Special Report was carried out between July and December 2014 and covers the period 2007-14. The Court gathered evidence for its assessment through documentary analysis, literature reviews and interviews with a wide variety of staff and external stakeholders, and through the review of six monitoring, mentoring and advising activities and 11 projects which were planned and implemented during 2011-14.

11.3 The report finds that the EUPOL Afghanistan partly achieved its aim of helping to establish a sustainable and effective Afghan-owned civilian police. It notes that:

—  in the absence of a trained, fully-functioning Afghan police force, and with high illiteracy rates and widespread corruption in the Afghan police and justice systems, EUPOL has managed to contribute to a reform of the Ministry of the Interior and professionalisation of the country's police;

—  however, continuing systemic weaknesses in the country's justice and police put at risk the legacy of the results achieved by EUPOL, as well as of the Afghan policing sector in general, after the phasing-out of the mission by the end of 2016.

11.4 In commenting on the Report, the responsible ECA Member, Hans Gustaf Wessberg, said on the day of its publication:[ 81]

"While external factors, such as lack of security and the almost complete absence of a trained and functional police force, may provide some explanation for EUPOL's mixed results, other shortcomings can be attributed to the mission itself. The ECA makes a number of recommendations, applicable not only to EUPOL Afghanistan, but also to other CSDP missions aiming to improve their effectiveness and the sustainability of the outcomes achieved."

11.5 The EU auditors note that the EU managed to establish the mission in a very unstable environment. They observe that the mandate — "to strategically advise the higher echelons of the police force and create links to a wider rule of law — provided a hitherto-missing building block in the country's police and justice services, thus ensuring EU added value. From a difficult start, where EUPOL's deployment proved cumbersome and it suffered from considerable logistical and staffing constraints, EUPOL has gradually gained recognition for its expertise and contribution to reforming the country's police. However, EUPOL did not manage to bring together all European actors as initially intended" — due in part to the mission's limited size and also to competition from other European and international efforts. "In spite of this, EUPOL contributed to enhanced cooperation with the EU Member States on the ground and sought to promote international cooperation".

11.6 With regard to results, the ECA assessed that EUPOL helped the Afghan police to gain some public trust by supporting the implementation of basic principles of civilian policing, but the Afghan police and justice systems continue to suffer from systemic weaknesses, including inadequate institutional development, an ineffective legal framework and limited staff capacity. Other factors such as undue political influence, corruption and the focus on counter­insurgency policing continue to hinder institutional development of the criminal justice sector as a whole. Connecting the national police to justice reform was "one of the areas in which it was most challenging for EUPOL to demonstrate results".

11.7 The audit also noted that:

—  EUPOL's assessment and reporting systems were not suited to the mandate because they were too basic, without sufficient focus on results and added value throughout most of the period audited;

—  the sustainability of the results of EUPOL's work and of the Afghan policing sector in general would depend on the willingness of the Afghan authorities to take ownership of the outcomes, on the security situation and on funding from the EU and other international stakeholders; and

—  concerns also remained as to how the EU can build upon EUPOL's achievements and whether maximum value will be obtained from the disposal of the mission's significant assets. [ 82]

11.8 The report sets out five recommendations for the Commission and the EEAS to improve the effectiveness of CSDP missions:

i)  ensure missions receive sufficient logistical, technical and human resources support;

ii)  development of support functions to ensure rapid, efficient and consistent deployment of missions, including through training, guidelines and a shared service centre for all missions;

iii)  improve the effectiveness of training, projects and monitoring, mentoring and advising;

iv)  ensure that sustainability is embedded in the operational planning of all mission activities; and

v)  ensure the smooth phasing out of missions and liquidation of assets.

11.9 As is recalled below (see "Background"), the previous Committee has engaged with the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington), before on this topic, i.e., the first such review by the ECA of the effectiveness of a major EU CSDP mission — in that case, EULEX Kosovo, the EU's rule of law mission in Kosovo, and its largest and most long-running. In that instance, drawing on some years of discussion with the Government of the day, the then Committee — noting that at that time, there were 14 missions globally, and more were in prospect — suggested that the Minister should encourage the ECA to undertake such reviews of an EU CSDP mission more widely. His response was that it was for the ECA to set its priorities.

11.10 The message that the previous Committee sought to convey was clear: notwithstanding the political considerations that tended towards the quickest possible establishment of each new mission, they needed to be given clear, measurable objectives and a time limit; be benchmarked; be rigorously assessed along the way; and be wound up if those objectives were, for whatever reason, not being meeting effectively and not providing value for money. The same intense scrutiny that the ECA had brought to bear on EULEX Kosovo should also be brought to bear on established missions. Scarce resources need to be deployed, and re-deployed, to where they would have most impact. All future proposals to establish, renew or expand CSDP missions should be expected to demonstrate that these considerations were being taken properly into account.

11.11 EUPOL Afghanistan (which at that time had already cost over $200 million) was one mission they had in mind. It may be coincidence: nonetheless, we are gratified that, one way or another, our predecessors' proposal has come to fruition. As is plain from the Court's findings and recommendations, there are many essential similarities in the environment in which such missions have to operate, particularly concerning local ownership, the security situation and effective cooperation both between EU actors, Member States and other international stakeholders; and many lessons from the Afghan experience that need to be embedded in all such missions, in planning, implementing, effectively evaluating and, at the right time, closing them.

11.12 In this instance, as "a supporter of EU policing missions", the Minister for Europe "welcomes efforts to draw lessons from past experiences in order to inform and improve future implementation and effective use of EU funding".

11.13 We look forward to seeing what Conclusions are adopted by the Foreign Affairs Council in due course, which we hope will underline not just what needs to be done now and in future in this area in Afghanistan, but also what needs to become "mainstreamed" with regard not just to policing missions, but to all present and future CSDP missions.[ 83]

11.14 We therefore ask the Minister to forward us a copy of those Council Conclusions, together with his views on the extent to which they meet these desiderata.

11.15 In the meantime, we shall retain the document under scrutiny.

11.16 We also draw these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

Full details of the document: European Court of Auditors' Special Report No. 7/2015 — The EU police mission in Afghanistan: Mixed Results: (37041), —.

Background

11.17 The European Court of Auditors (ECA) carries out audits, through which it assesses the collection and spending of EU funds. It examines whether financial operations have been properly recorded and disclosed, legally and regularly executed. It also, via its Special Reports, carries out audits designed to assess how well EU funds have been managed so as to ensure economy, efficiency and effectiveness.[ 84]

11.18 The CSDP Policing Mission in Afghanistan (EUPOL Afghanistan) was originally established on 30 May 2007 with a three-year mandate; this was extended in 2010 for another three years, until 31 May 2013. It was set up to:

—  assist the Government of Afghanistan in implementing coherently its strategy towards sustainable and effective civilian policing arrangements, especially with regard to the Afghan Uniform (Civilian) Police and the Afghan Anti-Crime Police, as stipulated in the National Police Strategy;

—  improve cohesion and coordination among international actors;

—  work on strategy development, while placing an emphasis on work towards a joint overall strategy of the international community in police reform and enhance cooperation with key partners in police reform and training, including with the NATO-led mission ISAF and the NATO Training Mission and other contributors; and

—  support linkages between the police and the wider rule of law.

11.19 As previous Committees' Reports relate, this mission has been consistently supported by the Government, as being in line with its own priorities in Afghanistan and as part of the international community's wider efforts in supporting the Afghan Government. But over seven years of operation it had had a chequered performance. In the first period, it suffered from poor leadership: but it was always backed by Member States as being an essential complement to the recruit-level training of police officers being led by the US. In 2013, with the wider withdrawal of ISAF forces in 2014 in mind, Member States commissioned a European External Action Service (EEAS) strategic review (SR).

11.20 The then Committee hoped that, finally, it would provide some evidence of effectiveness, rather than activity analysis — especially as, by the end of 2014, the mission would have cost over €220 million (£161 million). The Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) told the then Committee that he had secured the key UK objectives of a continued focus on Afghan National Police (ANP) senior leadership, a tighter and more focused EUPOL presence in the provinces and a further review in the autumn of 2013 to determine the shape of CSDP engagement after transition. Effective benchmarking, monitoring and evaluation would become ever more important, since only then would Member States be able properly to determine whether EUPOL had achieved its objectives, assess the impact of what was now five years of costly training and answer his key question — could the Afghans continue this training beyond 2014 with a much reduced international presence? EUPOL needed to get better at measuring this. With 14 CSDP missions globally, and the potential need for more, Missions needed to provide Member States with more comprehensive evidence of their effectiveness and to show that stretched EU resources were being used to deliver maximum impact. The Committee agreed with all this, reported it to the House and looked forward to hearing more in due course.[ 85]

11.21 In so doing, the then Committee recalled an earlier ECA analysis of another similar, lengthy and costly mission, EULEX Kosovo, which had found that it had been effective only in a limited part of its mandate. Exchanges between them and the Minister revolved essentially around the wider implications of this unprecedented audit, by the Court of Auditors, of a CSDP mission. The then Committee — having suggested that the Court be encouraged to make this a regular occurrence — acknowledged his comment that it was for the Court of Auditors to set its own priorities.

11.22 But it also made the point that the message was nonetheless clear: notwithstanding the political considerations that tended towards the quickest possible establishment of each new mission, they needed to be given clear, measurable objectives and a time limit; be benchmarked; be rigorously assessed along the way; and be wound up if those objectives are, for whatever reason, not being meeting effectively and not providing value for money. The same intense scrutiny should also be brought to bear on established missions. Scarce resources need to be deployed, and re-deployed, to where they will have most impact. All future proposals to establish, renew or expand CSDP missions should be expected to demonstrate that these considerations are being taken properly into account. It would be helpful were information about the cost of CSDP mission activity, both collective and individual, to be easily available on the Council website (which it is not). Given the characteristic North/South split — the Minister had explained that only Germany and a number of other northern european states shared UK views — it was plainly a task requiring stamina and persistence; the then Committee commended the Minister and his officials for keeping up the pressure.[ 86]

11.23 With regard to the EEAS Strategic Review of EUPOL Afghanistan, the Minister told the then Committee, in due course:

—  that the SR had assessed that:

·  progress had been made in all areas of EUPOL Afghanistan's mandate, but recognised that the Mission's six strategic objectives would not be fully achieved by the end of 2014;

·  Afghan capacity would not be sufficient to continue self-sustaining progress towards a capable and functioning police service by December 2014;

·  non-EU actors, such as NATO and the UN, would not take on EUPOL Afghanistan activity; Member States agreed that EUPOL Afghanistan should therefore extend its mandate to support Afghan authorities in the further development of an effective civilian police force;

—  his own assessment was that EUPOL had provided an effective means of delivering engagement on policing post-2014, augmenting the UK's own efforts to build sustainable rule of law institutions that the Afghans can lead in the long term;

—   Member States had agreed that a two year mandate extension was a sufficient period to support Afghan authorities in areas where progress was lacking, allowing the mission to transition activity to the Afghans in a timely and practicable manner; and

—  based on the evidence presented in the SR, Member States agreed that the mandate extension should continue EUPOL Afghanistan's current structure of three broad lines of activity (advancing institutional reform in the Ministry of Interior (MOI), professionalisation of Afghan National Police (ANP) and connecting the police to the justice sector), within which support could be prioritised as necessary. Member States agreed on the continuation of all three strands of activity for the first year, with the third pillar (connecting the police to the justice sector) discontinued at the end of 2015. In its final year the mission would continue to support MOI reform and police professionalisation, with all activity transitioned to the Afghans or other multilateral actors by the mission end date of 31 December 2016.[ 87]

11.24 The relevant Council Decision was in line with the outcome of the SR, as described by the Minister. He noted that EUPOL Afghanistan would apply "a structured process to report and inform on the mission's performance and progress in implementing the mandate", which will be "benchmarked against the objectives, timeframes and measurable indicators identified within the OPLAN", and that this contains "a clear outline of the phases and timescales for activities in the run-up to the end of 2016, assessing progress of the three lines of operation and the transition of the mission's activity". The "benchmarking" process would help measure progress and outcomes by comparing the situation (an initial baseline) for a range of activities, against their evolution at given points using pre-defined indicators and means of verification; information on progress would then be used to facilitate tactical, operational and strategic policy adjustments, as required; and six-monthly reports issued by the Head of Mission which evaluated the mission against its specific objectives will be discussed in CIVCOM and the PSC,[ 88] and "provide all Member States with the opportunity to critique the mission at regular intervals and inform budget and mandate discussions, ensuring that the mission is delivering value for money".

11.25 As well as clearing this Council Decision, the then Committee also drew these developments to the attention of the Foreign Affairs Committee.[ 89]

The European Court of Auditors Special Report

11.26 The Court assessed whether EUPOL Afghanistan had been effective in delivering its mandate. The audit focused on whether EUPOL was well-planned and well-coordinated; whether it had received adequate operational support and guidance; whether EUPOL has contributed to the progress of the Afghan national police and, lastly, whether the phasing out of EUPOL has been adequately prepared. The audit covered the period from EUPOL's launch until end 2014, with a particular focus on its activities after 2012.

11.27 The Court notes that the EU managed to establish EUPOL Afghanistan in a particularly insecure and tough environment; and that, after a difficult start, EUPOL has gradually gained recognition from other actors for its expertise and its significant contribution to the ongoing reform of the police sector.

11.28 The Court found that EUPOL Afghanistan has been partly effective in delivering its mandate. Improvements were more notable in two of EUPOL's three main lines of operations. The Court also examined EUPOL's results per type of activity and found that EUPOL has been largely successful in training-related activities but less so in mentoring and advising. Projects have had a limited contribution to the mission's objectives. While external factors may provide some of the explanations for this, the Court says that other shortcomings can be attributed to EUPOL itself.

11.29 Regarding the planning of EUPOL, the Court found that the Council's decision to launch the mission was preceded by a thorough analysis of Afghan needs. The audit also found that EUPOL's objectives add value by focusing on strategic level training and advising in the field of policing, with linkages to the wider rule of law through the work of other international actors. However, the Court assesses that EUPOL's deployment was complicated and it took significant time before the mission reached a certain staffing level, mainly due to the difficult operational context and to recruitment and logistical problems.

11.30 As regards coordination, the Court says that EUPOL did not manage to bring together all European actors under a single European framework to improve Afghan policing, but has enhanced cooperation with the EU Member States on the ground and has genuinely sought to promote international cooperation.

11.31 With respect to headquarters' support and guidance, the Court found that:

—  the EU Member States and the EEAS have regularly adjusted EUPOL's mandate in line with changing priorities and the situation on the ground;

—  EUPOL's reporting meets basic accountability requirements but remains largely descriptive and without sufficient focus on the results achieved and value added;

—  support from headquarters has been relevant and useful overall but guidance should be more detailed in order to meet the specific operational needs of the mission; and

—  work is currently being done to improve guidance, and the possibility of further centralising certain functions is being examined on a cost-benefit basis.

11.32 Concerning the results achieved and their sustainability, the Court found that:

—  EUPOL has helped the Afghan national police to gain public trust by supporting the implementation of basic principles of civilian policing;

—  nevertheless, the police and justice sectors continue to suffer from systemic weaknesses; and

—  the long­term sustainability of EUPOL's outcomes and of the Afghan policing sector in general is at risk, as it will largely depend on the willingness of the Afghan authorities to take ownership of the outcomes, the security situation and on EU and other international stakeholder funding.

11.33 Lastly, with respect to the planned phasing­out of the mission, the Court found that, though EUPOL and the EEAS have drawn up a plan for winding down EUPOL's activities by the end of 2016, some concerns remain on how the EU can build upon EUPOL's achievements and whether maximum value will be obtained from the disposal of the mission's assets.

11.34 More widely, the Court notes that, besides being applicable to the EUPOL mission in Afghanistan, its recommendations relate to the setting up, deployment and general aspects of improving preparatory measures and support functions for future CSDP missions; and include practical measures to improve the effectiveness of each type of activity, measures to improve the sustainability of CSDP mission outcomes, and the preparation of an overall strategy to mitigate the risks inherent in the downsizing and closure of missions and the disposal of mission assets.[ 90]

The Government's view

11.35 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 1 September 2015, the Minister for Europe:

—  welcomes the report, its recommendations, and "the level of independent scrutiny it provides of the EU policing mission in Afghanistan"; and

—  as "a supporter of EU policing missions", also welcomes efforts to draw lessons from past experiences in order to inform and improve future implementation and effective use of EU funding.

11.36 The Minister notes that Member States last formally examined the mission's plans in March, when:

"Member States were in broad agreement that the Mission should focus on making a well-planned reduction of staff; continuing actively to support the work of the International Police Coordination Board of Afghanistan (IPCB); and progressing the transfer towards Afghan ownership, working in close cooperation with key partners such as the EU Special Representative, the EU Delegation, the UN and NATO. HMG anticipates that the latter will be more straightforward in the Rule of Law sphere where many actors are at work; than on policing. HMG continues to pay close attention to efforts to protect the mission's legacy; staff security; the Mission's engagement with the Government; the continuation of support to female police; the impact of closure of field offices; and the future of the IPCB as it transfers to Afghan ownership."

11.37 With regard to the Commission's response, the Minister says:

"As the Commission notes in its reply, it may be necessary for other international and local actors to provide follow up support which builds on EUPOL's achievements. The smooth closing of the EUPOL mission and the identification of actors to sustain the progress made by EUPOL will influence the UK's contribution to longer term capacity building projects in Afghanistan;

"There are discrepancies between the report and the response by the Commission and EEAS in relation to EUPOL's role in coordinating policing efforts. In line with the EEAS' response, the UK did not expect EUPOL to bring together all EU actors under a single European framework. Both the UK and members of the International Community have identified poor coordination as an ongoing issue which will be an important consideration in future planning."

11.38 In the immediate future, the Minister says that the Council will respond to the ECA's report through the drafting of Council Conclusions, which will pass to the Foreign Affairs Council for adoption; and for which no dates have yet been set.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (34432) —: Thirty-sixth Report HC 86-xxxvi (2012-13), chapter 12 (20 March 2013); also see (35190), 11109/13, SWD(13) 220: Thirtieth Report HC 83 xxvii (2013-14), chapter 4 (15 January 2014); (36514), —: Twenty-fourth Report HC 219-xxiii (2014-15), chapter 10 (3 December 2014); and (35996), 9467/14, JOIN(14) 17: Thirty-fourth Report HC 219-xxxiii (2014-15), chapter 1 (25 February 2015).


81   The report was published on 8 July 2015. Back

82   Press release. Also see "Background" for further details. Back

83   For a graphic illustration, see Ongoing and completed operations. Also see Security and defence - CSDP. Back

84   See European Court of Auditors for full details of the ECA's work. Back

85   See (34908), -: Third Report HC 83-iii (2013-14), chapter 26 (21 May 2013). Back

86   See (34432), -: Thirty-sixth Report HC 86-xxxvi (2012-13), chapter 12 (20 March 2013). Back

87   See (35190), 11109/13, SWD(13) 220: Thirtieth Report HC 83 xxvii (2013-14), chapter 4 (15 January 2014). Back

88   The Political and Security Committee (PSC) meets at the ambassadorial level as a preparatory body for the Council of the EU. Its main functions are keeping track of the international situation, and helping to define policies within the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) including the CSDP. It prepares a coherent EU response to a crisis and exercises its political control and strategic direction. The PSC is chaired by a representative of the High Representative. In parallel with the European Union Military Committee (EUMC: the highest military body set up within the Council, which provides the PSC with advice and recommendations on all military matters within the EU), the PSC is advised by a Committee for Civilian Aspects of Crisis Management (CIVCOM). This committee provides information, drafts recommendations, and gives its opinion to the PSC on civilian aspects of crisis management. Back

89   See (36514), -: Twenty-fourth Report HC 219-xxiii (2014-15), chapter 10 (3 December 2014). Back

90   See European Court of Auditors' Special Report No. 7/15 for full details.  Back


 
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