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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 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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