Ghosts of the Past: Lessons from Local Force Mobilization in Afghanistan and Prospects for the Future
By Kate Clark, Erica Gaston, Fazal Muzhary & Borhan Osman
Since 2001, the international military and the Afghan state have mobilized a range of local, hybrid, and sub-state forces to fill security gaps and confront insurgent threats in the country.
Date of Publication : Wednesday 1 July 2020 18:48
Afghan Uprising Forces ride through the district of Nazyan in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangrahar Province. Photo: Andrew Quilty, 2019
Since 2001, the international military and the Afghan state have mobilized a range of local, hybrid, and sub-state forces to fill security gaps and confront insurgent threats in the country. In 2009, US Special Forces experimented with a new local force model, one intended to develop local, community-based counter-insurgents that might both act to protect their communities and prove more effective against the Taleban. The initiative was formalized as the Afghanistan Local Police (ALP) in August 2010. The ALP grew to 30,000 forces at its peak. It also sparked copycat initiatives that resulted in other types of local forces, including the so-called Uprising Forces sponsored by the Afghan intelligence service, as well as a new program to attach local forces to the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANA-TF), which was initiated in 2018.
After 10 years marked by both criticism and fanfare, the ALP is set to be defunded by the end of September 2020. This joint research report by GPPi and the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN) assesses the record of the ALP and other local forces, to both inform other local force mobilization (whether the ANA-TF or those in other country contexts) and anticipate how the ALP’s dissolution might impact current dynamics. Ongoing peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taleban make the future of these local forces a significant and immediate challenge. Some have promoted the idea of using the ANA-TF as a reintegration vehicle for Taleban fighters; however, given that the demobilization or transition of the existing 25,000 to 30,000 ALP and Uprising Forces is already uncertain, such a move would likely generate significant competition and potentially trigger future conflict.
The ALP expanded rapidly, from just over one thousand men when authorized at the end of 2010, to 17,000 by the end of 2012 and 28,000 by January 2015 (in 31 of 34 provinces). The force is set to be defunded in September 2020, but as of publication, there was no clear transition plan for the estimated 18,000 forces still serving as ALP. Credit: Ilja Sperling
Download the full report here.