The Challenge of Establishing Domestic Security in Afghanistan

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


Amanollah Shafaei
Doctoral Student of Political Science at Al-Mustafa International University

It was believed that following the fall of the Taliban in 2001, dismantling of al-Qaeda’s bases in Afghanistan and election of a broad-based government in this country, insecurity that reigned there for the past three decades would come to an end. However, despite presence of tens of thousands of international forces as well as the Afghan army and a 300,000-strong police force in the past 16 years, Afghanistan is still not considered a safe country and the wave of immigration out of the country still continues with full force. Although presence of international forces has been effective in catalyzing the fall of the Taliban regime and has dealt drastic blows to al-Qaeda terrorist outfit, it has inflicted heavy material and spiritual costs on the Afghan government and nation. Perhaps the most important of those costs has been insecurity for which the Afghan society is currently paying through explosions, assassinations, kidnappings, widespread production and trafficking of illicit drugs, human smuggling and other forms of organized crime. This paper discussed the hypothesis that domestic security in Afghanistan needs identification of pitfalls and adoption of new policies and strategies. It also aims to answer this question: “How domestic security in Afghanistan can be organized while doing away with the existing shortcomings and errors?”

After the Taliban regime was toppled, the project for building a nation-state in Afghanistan got underway through intervention of international bodies such as the United Nations and the United States in order to establish a new government in the country. Under conditions when Afghan security forces, like the army and police, were practically in tatters after 1992 and the downfall of former president Mohammad Najibullah’s government, international forces took charge of the country’s domestic security under interim and transitional governments as well as during the first tenure of former Afghan president, Hamed Karzai. Former US president, George W. Bush, took many measures to revive Afghan security forces, especially the army and police force, in order to take charge of the country’s security. Subsequently, during Hamed Karzai’s first term in office (2003-2008), Afghan army and national police with a total force of over 100,000 soldiers each, were established. These forces gradually assumed responsibility for securing the country instead of NATO and ISAF forces. As a result, the role played by non-Afghan forces in establishing domestic security was mostly transferred to the aforesaid Afghan forces and many international forces left the country. However, a small group of them remained in the country mostly to support or train Afghan forces.

At the present time, the onus for the country’s security is on the “national army,” “national police,” and “national security council” of Afghanistan. However, despite the heavy cost and casualties suffered by these forces, they have not been successful in their mission and the security state in the country has been deteriorating. An evidence is that casualties suffered by these forces and civilians have sharply risen in the past couple of years and the armed opposition, especially the Taliban, are governing vast regions of the country. Subsequently, many infrastructural and development plans have been mothballed, no major investment is been made in Afghanistan, and there is even flight of capital out of the country.

On the whole, domestic security in Afghanistan has been going downhill in the past 16 years both when non-Afghan forces were in charge, and now that Afghan forces are in charge of providing security. If no solution is sought to this situation, Afghan people are sure to suffer more, and in case of continued insecurity, everything that the country has achieved in the past 16 years may be lost and Afghanistan may once again turn into a safe haven for terrorist groups.

I personally believe that if the following points are not taken into account with regard to domestic security by Afghanistan government officials and friendly states, the situation in the country will further go downhill:

1.      At the present time, management of domestic security is very inefficient and obsolete. Differences among officials of Afghanistan’s national unity government about who must occupy security posts, on the one hand, and priority of ethnic and political affiliations for appointing army and police commanders, on the other hand, in addition to the absence of a clear mechanism for punishing or rewarding these forces have dealt serious blows to the structure of these two security institutions in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that in the absence of meritocracy in Afghanistan’s security institutions, any expectation of improvement in domestic security would be in vain.

2.      Afghanistan tops the list of the world’s most corrupt countries. Unfortunately, widespread corruption has afflicted security institutions and officials and there are disconcerting reports about squandering defense and security budget, selling and buying security posts, arms smuggling, as well as soldiers fleeing garrisons and deserting their posts. Therefore, saving three main security institutions, that is, the “army”, “police,” and “national security council” from corruption is an immediate and urgent need.

3.      Local security forces, known as Arbaki, whose mission is to provide security on behalf of the government in remote places, need more support, on the one hand, and more supervision, on the other hand. It is said that these forces have quit their job in many places due to lack of adequate support, or have turned into a factor of insecurity.

4.      It seems that some parts of the government lack necessary will to identify factors of insecurity. It must be noted that a large part of insecurity in Afghanistan spills over into the country from beyond its borders. Therefore, it seems that in addition to cracking down on factors of insecurity, the government of Afghanistan needs to adopt a more active diplomacy toward regional and neighboring countries. It is noteworthy that insecurity in Afghanistan is also connected to problems in the country’s foreign policy as well and without solving those problems, expectations about establishment of sustainable security in Afghanistan would be nothing more than illusion.

5.      There are certain groups within the Afghan government, which defend renewed presence of international forces in Afghanistan and show the green light to the new US administration in this regard. However, experiences of past years have shown that even when the number of foreign forces in Afghanistan amounted to 150,000, the country was not considered a secure country. Therefore, renewed presence of foreign combat forces without attention to previous mechanisms will not help change the situation in the country in a meaningful manner.

In conclusion, one can claim that domestic security in Afghanistan is facing serious challenges part of which is related to the way that security is provided and incorrect management of Afghanistan’s security organs. Dependence of these organs on spiritual and material support from countries backing Afghanistan, on the one hand, in addition to mismanagement, existing corruption in the country’s security organs, and confusion among high-ranking officials, on the other hand, have caused an intolerable level of domestic insecurity to sweep through Afghanistan. As a result, there is no way but for three bodies that are in charge of providing security, including the “army,” “police” and “national security council,” to undergo restructuring and serious reforms. In parallel to that effort, local and popular forces, who have established some form of self-sustaining security system in remote regions, must be provided with necessary support.


*Photo Credit: Outlook-Afghanistan

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