The United States Runs a Strip Mall Just for Cops in Afghanistan
Site supports American and Afghan law enforcement work
The U.S. State Department runs a strip mall for cops in Afghanistan. No, seriously, that’s what Washington calls three compounds in Kabul.
For almost a decade, State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs — a.k.a. INL — has run all sorts of law enforcement projects in Afghanistan out of the site, which is physically separate from the embassy. American, Afghan and other officers from around the world live and work on the “INL Strip Mall,” according to a notice about a contract awarded in July.
The INL Strip Mall … support[s] INL foreign assistance programs and provides Life and Mission Support (LMS) to Third Party Contractor (TPC) subject matter experts, the DEA and the Afghan National Investigative Unit/Special Investigative Unit.
INL trains with police and other security forces around the world, supplies weapons and equipment and even has a surprisingly large air force of its own. Work at the Strip Mall includes coordinating programs to stem the flow of illegal drugs, modernize Afghanistan’s prisons and improve the country’s legal system.
In response to a request for more information, a State Department official offered the following statement.
Over the past nine years, the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) has based a core set of programs at a secure set of neighboring compounds, known collectively as the Strip Mall. The Strip Mall is composed of three compounds and supports INL’s justice, corrections, and counter-narcotics programming as well as Afghan Government criminal justice institutions supported by INL. American, local national, and third-country national implementing partners work and reside on the Strip Mall in support of criminal justice institutions and related programs to advance U.S. strategic objectives in Afghanistan.
While the press office representative described the Strip Mall as “secure,” facilities in Kabul are often under threat from the Taliban and other militant groups. On July 22, 2014, a suicide bomber killed six contractors working at the Strip Mall.
After the attack, INL’s office for Afghanistan and Pakistan went looking for bomb-sniffing dogs to help guard the sites. American K-9 Detection Services, LLC won the aforementioned $8 million contract to provide the dog teams.
Insurgents have successfully exploited this vulnerability and INL/AP is seeking to mitigate this risk and establish a complete and ready to go EDD [Explosive Detection Dog] capability as quickly as possible in order to help mitigate any further loss of life.
Despite increased security at the Strip Mall and places like it, militants haven’t stopped gunning for foreign contractors. On Aug. 22, 2015, another suicide attack led to the deaths of three American employees of the defense and security company DynCorp. The three contractors had been working with NATO rather than the State Department to train Afghan troops and police, according to statements from the Virginia-based company.
Like the bombing at the Strip Mall, this recent attack will no doubt lead to additional security measures for foreign troops and other workers in the country.