Afghanistan’s Paramilitary Policing in Context. The Risks of Expediency
Despite representing the bulk of Afghanistan’s post-2001 policing, the paramilitary dimension of the Afghan police has received little attention among analysts. In AAN’s latest report, ‘Paramilitary Policing in Context. The Risks of Expediency’, Antonio Giustozzi and Mohammad Isaqzadeh describe the origin and development of paramilitary policing in Afghanistan, and explore what this means for the prospects of a smooth transition and future stability.
Much of the public discussion on the effectiveness of Afghanistan’s police has been focused on the tactical capabilities: how capable each unit is to fight the insurgents and establish control over its portion of Afghan territory. This report focuses on the status of the chain of command and control and explores whether, realistically, it can be expected to strengthen over the next few years, as Afghanistan gets ready for the transition. It does so by putting the current state of the police in historical context.
The report describes how Afghanistan’s police has gone through various stages: from a functioning, although not very sophisticated or effective policing system under the monarchy; to a heavily politicised and para-militarised force under the communist regime; a deeply factionalised and depleted force under the mujahedin; and largely a subsidiary to the army, if existent at all, under the Taleban regime. In 2002 there was very little left of the pre-1978 institutions: discipline was poor, command and control was weak and police positions were divided among factions as spoils of war.
The report explores the post-2001 efforts that have been made to improve the command and control capabilities of the police and finds a recurring pattern of expediency and lack of a coherent or appropriate strategy. And although the technical capabilities of the Ministry of Interior have improved dramatically, the same can not be said for the willingness or ability at the top to direct effectively, or at the bottom to obey
The authors argue that paramilitary policing, which is the current de factomodel in Afghanistan, has to be seen within the wider context of police responsibilities: how the police cater for the state’s need for self-protection, the demand of communities for basic security, the desire of the business community and other groups for predictability in policing, and a range of other tasks. They conclude that in order for the Afghan state survive the transition it will need to develop a more balanced package of policing.
The full report can be downloaded here
The executive summary can be found here
Thematic Report 07/2011.
22 November 2011.