William C. Malone is a retired RCMP officer who spent a year in Kabul from 2011-2012 as deputy Canadian police commander. It is a little-publicized fact that Canadian police personnel were part of Canada’s NATO commitment; one thinks of the mission as purely a military one. From 2003 to 2014, hundreds of Canadian policemen and women volunteered to spend a year in Afghanistan to assist in the training of the Afghan National Police (ANP). Cops in Kabul: A Newfoundland Peacekeeper in Afghanistan (2018, Flanker Press) goes far in highlighting the important role Canadian peace officers played in that theatre of war.
Cops in Kabul truly shines in bringing to light the dangerous role of Canadian peace officers “on the ground,” but also the environment they had to work in, and the always=present demand for constant vigilance even when “within the wire” of protection. Mr. Malone describes the endless meetings he needed to attend with military types, with other international peace officers and even with Afghan officials themselves, which didn’t always go as hoped. Red tape, corruption in Afghan government and heavy-handed bureaucracy (from Ottawa, Washington and Kabul) all combined to make Mr. Malone’s duties all that more difficult to perform. He makes this great analogy: “Afghan politics and the machinations of departmental bureaucracy were complex, constantly changing, a moving target that was hard to understand. The difficulty for the international community was figuring out the impact of such changes. It was like flying an airplane while you’re building it. There was a lot of crazy turbulence, thousands of moving parts, and in the end, no one knew if we would reach our destination. Despite all that, we kept going and hoped for the best.”
I was very impressed by Cops in Kabul, for it has the qualities of a good memoir: insightful, educational, as well as the requisite ability to describe places and events clearly. Where I felt it could have really excelled was in the more personal side of Mr. Malone’s experience. He never truly takes us inside his deeper thoughts about “being there.” What were his thoughts and manner of life away from his desk? What were his coping strategies? He doesn’t mention much about keeping in contact with loved ones back home. Perhaps he chose to keep this part of his commitment out of the book, and it was “all business” for the majority of his time there. Whatever the reasons, his writing style is very readable and I found Cops in Kabul one of the better non-fiction offerings from Flanker Press in recent years. In short, Cops in Kabul: A Newfoundland Peacekeeper in Afghanistan is a compelling read about a year in the life of a high-level Canadian peace officer in Afghanistan. Recommended, and it will go on the 2019 longlist for “The Very Best!” Book Awards in the Non-Fiction category.
Here’s an interview Mr. Malone had on the CBC’s St John’s Morning Show:
Cops in Kabul: A Newfoundland Peacekeeper in Afghanistan by William C. Malone
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