Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)
The UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimated the literacy rate for the entire ANSF at approximately 14%, but it did not provide rates for the ANA and ANP separately. In 2010, ISAF leaders and President Hamid Karzai agreed to a transition process at the Lisbon Summit. According to the agreed roadmap, Afghan security forces were to take on full security responsibility for their country by the end of 2014. The transition process officially started on 22 March 2011, with the announcement of the first group of provinces, districts and cities to be handed over to Afghan security leadership. On 18 June 2013, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) formally assumed the lead for combat operations across the country. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) continued to support ANSF operations. President Karzai also announced the fifth and final group of Afghan provinces, cities, and districts to undergo transition in the coming months. This would support the goal of complete transition of responsibility for security to the Government of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
On May 21, 2012, the leaders of the 50 countries contributing to the NATO mission in Afghanistan met in Chicago and agreed to a new transition timetable that would put Afghan security forces in charge of security throughout the country by the summer of 2013. The United States and its coalition partners have been building the ANSF to a combined strength of 352,000 soldiers and police. NATO leaders agreed to scale back the total force to a more financially sustainable 228,500 by 2017, security conditions permitting. They estimated it will cost $4.1 billion per year to maintain a force of this size.
Building Afghanistan's capacity to provide for its own security was a major priority of the US effort in the country following the ouster of the Taliban in 2002. Besides efforts to defeat the Taliban-led insurgency and provide reconstruction and development to Afghanistan's people, the US and its international partners, and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) were focused on fielding and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The ANSF conisted of the Afghan National Army (ANA; which included the ANA Air Corps and later the Afghan Air Force), under the authority of the Ministry of Defense, and Afghan National Police (ANP), under the authority of the Ministry of Interior. These forces represented critical pillars for establishing security and stability in Afghanistan. The long-term goal was to build and develop ANSF that were nationally respected; professional; ethnically balanced; democratically accountable; organized, trained, and equipped to meet the security needs of the country; and increasingly funded from GIRoA revenue.
The plan for ANSF development was consistent with the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). The ANDS laid out the strategic priorities and mechanisms for achieving the government's overall development vision. The plan for developing the ANSF was also consistent with the Afghanistan Compact, an agreement which defined a political partnership between the GIRoA and the international community. According to the compact, the international community committed itself to providing the budgetary, materiel, and training support necessary to develop national military forces, police services, and associated ministerial structures and the GIRoA committed itself to providing the human resources and political will. Although the US was the primary provider of ANSF training and development, other international members were contributing to the effort. The lead US agency responsible for this developemnt was the Combined Security Transition Command - Afghanistan (CSTC-A). It operated alongside the NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan (NTM-A), with the US Commander of CSTC-A being dual-hatted as the Commander of NTM-A.
The 2001 Bonn Agreement established the goal of a 50,000-person ANA and a 62,000-person ANP. The Bonn II Agreement in December of 2002 expanded the ANA target end-strength to 70,000 personnel. Since the Bonn Agreements and the international declaration of the Afghanistan Compact in 2006, security condition evolved, with a resurgence of activity by insurgents and anti-government elements. Consequently, in May 2007, the international community's Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) approved an increase to 82,000 authorized ANP. Similarly, with the endorsement of the JCMB on 5 February 2008, the authorized ANA force structure increased to 80,000 personnel, with an additional 6,000 allotted for the trainee, transient, hospital, and student account.
Since initial publication in June 2008, the Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan has provided the U.S. Congress semi-annual assessments on developments in Afghanistan and the state of the international coalition’s civil-military campaign. The June 2008 report presented a bleak assessment of the situation in Afghanistan: “The Taliban regrouped after its fall from power and have coalesced into a resilient insurgency." A year later the situation had declined further; as noted in the June 2009 report: “The security situation continued to deteriorate in much of Afghanistan." However, these trends gradually began to change as shifts in strategy were supported by critical resources, and in November 2010, the report for the first time highlighted “modest gains in security, governance, and development in operational priority areas," noting as well their uneven and fragile character. The last three iterations reported that progress has continued to expand, with the most recent report in October 2011 highlighting “important security gains" and “reversal of violence trends in much of the country."
During the reporting period of October 1, 2011 to March 31, 2012, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and its Afghan partners have continued to build on and expand this progress. The year 2011 saw the first year-over-year decline in nationwide enemy-initiated attacks in five years. These trends have continued in 2012. The performance of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and the close partnership between the ANSF and ISAF have been keys to this success. As a result, the ANSF continue to develop into a force capable of assuming the lead for security responsibility throughout Afghanistan. Security progress and the development of the ANSF during the reporting period have enabled the security Transition process to continue in accordance with Lisbon Summit commitments. As of the end of the reporting period, nearly 50 percent of Afghans were living in areas where the ANSF had begun to assume the lead for security.
The relationship between ISAF and the Afghan Government and its security forces endured significant shocks during the reporting period stemming from: the video release of U.S. Marines defiling corpses presumed to be Taliban fighters; the inadvertent burning of religious materials, including the Holy Quran, by U.S. personnel at Bagram Air Base; "green-on-blue" attacks in which members of the ANSF killed ISAF personnel, such as the killing of two U.S. military officers at the Afghan Ministry of Interior; and the killing of seventeen Afghan civilians in Panjwa’I District, Kandahar Province, allegedly by a lone U.S. Soldier. Although widespread demonstrations sparked by the Quran burnings triggered violence that led to the death of several Afghan citizens, the vast majority of ANSF personnel across the country responded professionally and played a critical role in managing the demonstrations, containing violence, and protecting both Afghan citizens and numerous ISAF and international community facilities and personnel. The effective ANSF response, conducted in accordance with training, demonstrated preparedness to respond to unexpected challenges, commitment to mission, and durability in the relationship with ISAF that withstood impassioned calls by demonstrators to exact retribution amidst a highly charged environment.
At least 4,100 service members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) forces were kileed during the first six months of the year 2015. The latest statistic regarding the Afghan National Security Forces casualties was a 50% increase as compared to the first six months of the year 2014. At least 7,800 service members of the Afghan National Security Forces were wounded during the same period.
At least 100 Afghan police and border officers defected to the Taliban in the largest mass surrender since the United States and NATO forces ended their combat mission at the end of 2014. The Afghan security forces surrendered 25 July 2015 after clashing with Taliban fighters for three days at the Tirgaran base in Badakhshan province, in the remote northeastern part of the country. The local police commander was among those who defected, turning over the base's weapons and ammunition. The head of the provincial council, Abdullah Naji Nazari, said, "No reinforcements were sent to help the police at the base for the past three days when they were under the attack and finally they had no option: They had to join the Taliban."
In a statement, the Taliban claimed its fighters had taken control of several security installations in the area and had captured 110 members of the national security forces. Some officials were reported as saying that the commanders had “made a deal" with the Taliban and that the surrender included handing over all the weapons and equipment at the base to the Taliban. The Taliban later said in an another statement that local elders had negotiated the release of captured policemen, and that it had obtained guarantees they would not rejoin the Afghan national forces.
ANDSF performance over the entire fighting season and the last six months of 2015 was uneven and mixed. The ANDSF demonstrated a growing capability to plan and execute large-scale offensive operations while, as expected, significant challenges remain in the areas of ANDSF leadership, combat enablers, logistics and sustainment, and ministerial capacity. Following successful ANDSF cross-pillar [operations in which more than one ANDSF force component, or pillar, participates] offensive operations in southern and eastern Afghanistan early in the 2015 fighting season, many of the known and persistent challenges and shortfalls became increasingly evident as the Afghan government reacted to Taliban offensives. These shortfalls and challenges hampered ANDSF execution of planned offensive operations and effectively stalled the campaign plan for the second half of 2015 and the corresponding operational initiative.
The Taliban offensives in Helmand and Kunduz in 2014 demonstrated that the ANDSF remained reactive. This allowed the Taliban to foster the impression that the ANDSF cannot control key population centers. Even when the ANDSF was able to regroup and reclaim key population centers and symbols of Afghan governance, this undermined public confidence that the government can protect the Afghan people and overshadowed the numerous successes the ANDSF had in clearing insurgent sanctuaries. Recent surveys show that over the course of a tough fighting season public confidence in the ANDSF eroded slightly, though it still remained high at 70 percent compared to 78 percent in March 2015 and 72 percent in June 2015.
Despite a positive trajectory, the ANDSF had a long way to go. Although the ANDSF had capability advantages over the insurgent forces, they remained reluctant to pursue the Taliban into their traditional safe havens. Given the ANDSF’s stage of development in 2015, they cannot manage the insurgency and ensure security and stability across Afghanistan without further improvement in key enabling capabilities, competent operational-level leaders, and continued development of human capital.
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