Afghan National Security Policy
"On the security front the entire NATO exercise was one that caused Afghanistan a lot of suffering, a lot of loss of life, and no gains because the country is not secure ... I am not happy to say that there is partial security. That's not what we are seeking. What we wanted was absolute security and a clear-cut war against terrorism... The worsening of relations began in 2005 where we saw the first incidents of civilian casualties, where we saw that the war on terror was not conducted where it should have been.... in the sanctuaries, in the training grounds beyond Afghanistan, rather than that which the US and NATO forces were conducting operations in Afghan villages, causing harm to Afghan people."
Hamid Karzai, 07 October 2013
In mid-2013, the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) assumed lead responsibility for security throughout Afghanistan. In 2015, the ANDSF assumed sole responsibility for securing their country. The Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF). These are the two most lethal forces on the Afghan battlefield. The growth of Afghan Air Force and Special Forces are key to increasing Afghan offensive capability. Afghanistan plans to double the number of the Afghan Special Security Forces by 2020, and significantly increase the capability of the Afghan Air Force. Intelligence development is an ongoing process. Sustainment and logistic functions will take longer.
President Ghani’s 2017 ANDSF Roadmap is designed to seize the initiative in the fight against insurgent and terrorist forces; further professionalize the ANDSF; modify the force structure to extend security; expand governance and economic development; and compel the Taliban to seek reconciliation.
The ANDSF Roadmap is a broad-based reform effort with four key elements.
- Increase Fighting Capabilities. Reinforce the success of ASSF by increasing the size and capability of the force to increase offensive reach and lethality. Modernize and expand the Afghan aviation fleet to provide a larger, more capable air force through a combination of aircraft acquisition, pilot training, maintenance training, target development, and integration throughout the ANDSF. An organic, relatively large, and highly capable air force will provide the ANDSF with a distinct advantage against its enemies.
- Leadership Development. Produce honest, competent, and committed ANDSF professionals by introducing merit-based selection of leaders, better instruction and education, and a unified training system. In addition, the ANDSF will employ improved human resource and personnel management systems to provide appropriate leader development from recruitment through retirement and assign trained leaders to the right positions.
- Unity of Command/Effort. Increase unity of command and effort between the MoD and the MoI, starting with a review of command and control structures. Improve unity of effort by transitioning paramilitary portions of the MoI (ABP and ANCOP) to control of the MoD.
- Counter-Corruption. Implement reforms to address illicit activity and patronage networks within security organizations in order to reduce corruption and increase ANDSF effectiveness.
The use of static checkpoints continue to reduce the available combat power for maneuver, and remains an area of concern for the ANDSF. Significant social and political pressure to maintain checkpoints around villages and along highways contribute to the continued employment of static checkpoints. Many of these checkpoints are tactically unsound and present opportunities for the enemy. The overwhelming majority of successful Taliban attacks against ANDSF forces occur at poorly manned static checkpoints.
The MoD agreement to reduce the number of permanent fixed checkpoints across Afghanistan has not progressed. ANA corps previously agreed to employ no more than 25 percent of their forces in the operational phase of the ORC in permanent static checkpoint positions. Despite these stated goals, the ANA did not reduce checkpoints significantly during this reporting period. The ANA continue to evaluate checkpoints to determine if they are properly resourced and tactically sound.
In a major shift in policy, on 28 Feb 2018 Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani offered to recognize the Taliban as a legitimate actor in the country’s politics. “We are making this offer without preconditions in order to lead to a peace agreement,” Ghani said in his remarks in the first day of the so-called Kabul Process aimed at setting up a platform for negotiations with the militants.
Ghani called for the affected parties to create a framework for peace talks, and for the Taliban to establish a formal office to engage in negotiations with the Western-backed government. The Afghan president also said he would be ready to accept a review of the constitution as part of an accord with the Taliban. He proposed a pact with the militants that could involve a potential release of Taliban prisoners, whose names would be scrubbed from international blacklists; a constitutional review; and fresh elections. In return, the militants would have to recognize the Kabul government and respect the rule of law, Ghani said.
The Taliban’s persistent silence to a widely praised week-old dialogue offer by the Afghan government prompted President Ashraf Ghani to repeat the overture and call 07 march 2018 for the insurgents to seek resolution of issues without further bloodshed. Inaugurating the new session of the Afghan parliament, the president assured lawmakers his government will “not back down” from a “comprehensive plan for peace with the Taliban” he unveiled at last week’s international conference in Kabul.
Ghani had made repeated peace offers to the Taliban since taking power in 2014, but the insurgent group never directly responded to them, disregarding the Afghan government as “puppets” of American occupation forces.
The Afghan government and the Taliban held peace talks in 2015, but they broke down almost immediately. A number of initiatives were underway in 2015 to move the ANDSF towards a more offensive-oriented strategy grounded in intelligence-driven operations, but these efforts had limited buy-in from some ANDSF and provincial leadership. The ANDSF would be unable to achieve their desired end state of protecting the population until their strategy against the insurgency entails more operations focused on clearing insurgent safe havens and operating areas. A more offensive strategy also includes changes in the employment of the force and force posture. In particular, the ANDSF reliance on static checkpoints detracted from their ability to resource a more offensive approach with sufficient manpower.
The insurgency’s strategy continued in 2015 to exploit vulnerabilities in ANDSF force posture by conducting massed attacks against checkpoints, stretch the reach of the ANDSF into rural areas, isolate areas by staging smaller attacks in the surrounding areas, and impede ground lines of communication ahead of attacks against district or provincial centers.
The Taliban offensives in Helmand and Kunduz in 2015 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 overshadows the numerous successes the ANDSF have had in clearing insurgent sanctuaries. Recent surveys show edthat over the course of a tough fighting season public confidence in the ANDSF had eroded slightly, though still remained high at 70 percent compared to 78 percent in March 2015 and 72 percent in June 2015.
The Office of the National Security Council, MoI, MoD, and General Staff continue to develop national-level defense plans, campaign plans, and associated resource allocations with RS support. President Ghani and the ONSC approved the National Threat Assessment and the National Security Policy documents on June 23 and July 14, 2015, respectively.
However, two other critical documents that provide guidance to the Afghan security ministries and articulate the Afghan government’s strategy remained unsigned; the ONSC, in coordination with the MoD and the MoI, are continuing to revise both the National Security Strategy and the National Campaign Plan.
The five-year National Campaign Plan was a critical document intended to inform winter and traditional fighting season campaign strategy and planning documents. These delays can be attributed, in part, to a slow and bureaucratic ONSC system that often strives for consensus-building at the expense of efficiency. Additionally, because of the immaturity of the Afghan government’s overall strategic planning structure, planning documents are more prescriptive and tactical in nature than typical strategic planning documents.
Generally the areas of the country where the ANDSF were able to optimize their force posture in 2015 coincided with areas where ANDSF deliberate, offensive operations have occurred or where provincial governors’ and powerbrokers’ influence is minimal. Though checkpoints and a fixed ANDSF presence, rather than patrols or a rotational presence, was consistent with Afghan perceptions of security – especially in rural areas – the ANDSF reliance on defending static checkpoints came at a cost of increased ANDSF casualties. Furthermore, broadly emplaced checkpoints compound existing logistics and supply challenges. This posture ceded the initiative to the insurgents who can choose to fight when they have the tactical advantage. With the insurgent tactic of massing forces, the ANDSF was being out-maneuvered by an overall numerically inferior insurgent force.
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