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Afghan Local Police

As the principle component of the Village Stability Operations (VSO) initiative, the Afghan Local Police [ALP] are village-based security forces administered by the MoI. The ALP program has been known by six or seven different names in the past four or five years, mostly due to political wrangling; but the intent and idea has been basically the same in each, local men trained to police their own villages. Afghan tribes were armed to fight the Taliban, similar to how Iraqi tribes were armed to fight militants during the Sunni Awakening. But it is not a cash-for-security program such as the Sons of Iraq (SoI) model employed in Anbar Province, Baghdad, and elsewhere during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

In the mountainous areas, a village is a nearly self-sustaining, agrarian, economic and political entity. The village has always provided for its own defense, even before the days of modern firearms. Known as Arbakai and various other names such as mahali satoonkay, chagha, and chalweshtai, they were from the village and comprised from local families, thus answerable to the village. In the last thirty-five years, as the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of the gun, it has become necessary to provide some arms, equipment, and training to villagers to assist them in defending against outside, armed aggression.

Many non-Pashtuns suspected armed Pashtun militias would antagonize other ethnic groups and re-ignite the inter-ethnic clashes of the pre-Taliban civil war in the 1990s. And President Karzai, a Pashtun, was adamant against the renewal of local defense initiatives that might create a threat to his power base. But by 2010, a growing number of communities in Kandahar, Helmand, Paktia, Herat, Paktika, Day Kundi, and other provinces mobilized and fought against insurgents. In July 2010 the Afghan central government gave the official authorization to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to raise local defense forces.

the first major effort to organize local defense forces was the Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP), a top-down program called established in 2006. Unlike the programs implemented by individual Special Operations Forces (SOF) teams since 2001, the nationwide ANAP program was directed by the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI), in partnership with the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan (CSTC-A). The program was immediately crippled by the lack of capacity to vet recruits, distribute funds, and provide logistical support. The MoI leadership and contractor-run training of ANAP proved wholly inadequate in preventing tribal bias, corruption, and even criminal activity against local Afghans. The program was widely seen as a complete failureand was shut down in 2008.

The program utilizes USSOF to train Afghans in rural areas to defend their communities against threats from insurgents and militant groups, in support of ISAFs COIN strategy. Although called police, ALP members do not have arrest authority, and they are not counted in tallies of the ANPs strength. ALP members are nominated by local councils, vetted by the Afghan intelligence service, and serve under local police chiefs. They are trained by and partner with elements of the ANP, ANA, and US Special Forces.

The MoI has approved 99 districts for ALP units; of these, 58 have been validated by their local shura and the MoI, a 21 percent increase from the previous reporting period. The total force of 12,660 ALP represents a 56 percent increase from the previous reporting period. The Afghan Government has authorized an end-strength of 30,000 ALP. However, ALP growth in the south and east the main focus areas of the program continues to be challenged by insurgent intimidation efforts and tribal infighting.

The ALP program continues to expand and gain popular support. Tactical and technical proficiency of units gained during the 2011 fighting season has improved ALP capacity and performance. The sustainability of these gains, however, depends on coalition enabler support, MoI engagement, and continued USSOF mentoring.

Despite significant success, the ALP face multiple challenges. The program is heavily dependent on U.S. Government funding and USSOF training, mentorship, and oversight. Achieving the approved total force of 30,000 ALP guardians will challenge the capacity of CFSOCC-A forces, and may require additional support from USSOF and conventional force enablers. In part mitigating this concern, current plans call for transitioning some USSOF teams from directly training ALP to an ISAF overwatch role for mature ALP units, which would increase CFSOCC-As ability to train, mentor, and oversee ALP with decreased force requirements.

Numerous ALP sites will transition to Afghan Government control but remain within ISAF overwatch. ISAF overwatch is an enduring operational and administrative affiliation between ISAF elements and VSO/ALP sites that have transitioned to ANSF primary partnering responsibility. ISAF overwatch is designed to minimize risk, ensure consistent support, and enhance the success of Afghan security forces. This approach enables ISAF to reassign freed-up ISAF elements to generate additional ALP in other districts. In order for a VSO/ALP site to be considered for transition, the Afghan Government must be able to sustain security, development, and governance at the district level with minimal-to-no assistance from ISAF. ALP transitions are determined by conditions on the ground and the ultimate authority to transition resides with the CFSOCC-A Commander.

ALP face many challenges, including ethnic and tribal tensions. For example, in Baghlan Province, ethnic tensions have resulted in clashes between Pashtun-dominated ALP and Tajik-dominated ANP. Although local shuras are largely effective in ensuring fair tribal and ethnic representation in ALP units, some shuras and ALP commanders actively resist recruiting certain ethnicities, which can create significant ethnic tension in multi-ethnic villages. To mitigate these risks, USSOF works closely with the shuras and District Chiefs of Police to promote a multi-ethnic approach, which is a key to stability.

The proliferation of independent, non-Afghan Government sanctioned militias, which operate outside the VSO/ALP framework, threatens to undermine the legitimacy and progress of the programs. Although limited in number, these unauthorized organizations threaten to damage the ALP brand, especially those that misuse the ALP name to further their own interests.

Finally, during the reporting period, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its annual report on the protection of civilians, which discussed the ALP at length. UNAMA noted that ALP had improved security in and kept insurgents out of ALP areas, but maintained some criticisms from its 2010 report, which included references to isolated issues in recruitment, vetting, training, and discipline. To address these occurrences, CFSOCC-A created ALP Assessment Teams charged with investigating misconduct allegations and related issues affecting the ALP at the district level.

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2012, ISAF Commander General Allen expressed optimism regarding the success of the ALP. He noted that the Taliban are particularly threatened by the ALP because of its ability to deny insurgents a hold on local populations. General Allen also testified that, as the ALP reaches its full strength, decisions would be made as to whether to continue the initiative and allowed for the possibility that the force could be expanded.

The UN Secretary-General stated that although reports indicated that security had improved in areas where the ALP is operating, there had also been reports of human rights abuses against civilians. He noted that he shared the view of the Government of Afghanistan that such security initiatives should have clear lines of accountability, command, and control linking them to formal national security forces and institutions, namely the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police.

The ALP provides security within villages and rural areas to protect the population from insurgent attacks, protect facilities, and conduct local counterinsurgency missions. ALP personnel are recruited in concert with local elder approval and employed within villages to provide local security and prevent the spread of enemy influence and activity in that area.

The ALP end strength as of late 2014 was approximately 28,000 out of an authorized end strength of 30,000. Of the 30,000 authorized ALP positions, more than 2,300 "ghost" and 1,000 absentee ALP personnel have been removed from the rosters in recent months. An estimated 6,000-8,000 ALP members are untrained, although the MoI is undertaking several efforts to address this shortfall during winter 2015-2016. While the ALP is not authorized to perform law enforcement missions, they do have the authority to detain criminals and insurgents temporarily for transfer to the AUP or ANA.

The ALP are frequently misemployed, which degrades their mission success. When tactically employed within 1 kilometer of their village as intended, the ALP serves an important part of the ANDSF provincial layered security construct. In practice, however, ALP personnel are often employed as far as 10 kilometers or more away from their villages, undermining their presence as a police force with connections to the local community.

ALP misemployment also includes their use as personal bodyguards for provincial council members, district governors, and other local power brokers. A key factor contributing to the misuse of ALP forces is the role of provincial chiefs of police who as Presidentially appointed officials may be susceptible to political influences and often lack fundamental knowledge of or experience with managing police forces. Successful ALP units are more frequently observed in areas in which the previous ISAF mission maintained a persistent coalition presence with prior forms of local security forces.

Following the June 2015 transition of the ALP to align more directly under the command and control of the AUP, the MoI initiated an assessment of ALP districts for personnel accountability and capability. As of November 22, 2015, 164 of 170 district assessments had been completed. Minister Ulumi subsequently issued a cipher with the assessment results and recommendations for how to improve the ALP. The assessments also identified 2,200 ALP who were under the control of local powerbrokers. Resolute Support officials have taken steps to direct the withholding of payroll disbursements and condition future ALP funding pending significant MoI reforms to address this issue. The coalition is working with MoI leadership on implementation of the MoIs plan to eliminate the use of ALP by regional power brokers and to enhance overall accountability and transparency within the ALP.

In October 2015, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) published an audit report on the ALP that included seven recommendations to ensure that the ALP is responsibly managed and sustained and to improve oversight of U.S. funds. SOJTF-A, which conducts TAA with the ALP, concurred with six of SIGARs recommendations. In response to the seventh recommendation, CSTC-A has undertaken a comprehensive audit of multiple aspects of the ALP payroll process that will address various issues raised in the SIGAR report.

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Page last modified: 24-12-2015 19:10:48 ZULU