• In seven years, the Afghan National Police forces have grown to 68,000 personnel, with a target end strength of 86,000. The ANP includes the uniformed police force, which is responsible for general police duties, and specialized police forces, which deal with public order, counternarcotics, terrorism, and border control.
  • Despite the impressive growth in numbers, the expenditure of $10 billion in international police assistance, and the involvement of the United States, the European Union, and multiple donors, the ANP is riddled with corruption and generally unable to protect Afghan citizens, control crime, or deal with the growing insurgency.
  • The European Union has replaced Germany as the lead partner for police reform, but the United States has the largest police program, which is directed by the U.S. military. Putting soldiers in charge of police training has led to militarization of the ANP and its use as a counterinsurgency force.
  • Using improperly trained, equipped, and supported ANP patrol men as "little soldiers" has resulted in the police suffering three times as many casualties as the Afghan National Army. Police are assigned in small numbers to isolated posts without backup and are targeted by the insurgents.
  • Beyond funding the Taliban, the explosion in Afghan narcotics production fueled widespread corruption in the Afghan government and police. Drug abuse by police officers became increasingly common as did other forms of criminal behavior.
  • Challenges facing the ANP were further compounded by a proliferation of bilateral police assistance programs that reflected the policing practices of donor countries. These efforts often were not coordinated with the larger U.S. and EU programs, creating confusion for the ANP.
  • The Obama administration has acknowledged the importance of the police and announced its intentions to expand and improve the ANP as a key part of its plan for stabilizing Afghanistan. It should do this as part of a broader international community approach to police assistance that embraces a comprehensive program for security sector reform and rule of law. 

About the Report

The Afghanistan National Police is Afghanistan's front line of defense against insurgency and organized crime. Yet despite nearly $10 billion in international police assistance, the Afghan police are riddled with corruption and incompetence and are far from the professional law enforcement organization needed to ensure stability and development. This report details the past failures and current challenges facing the international police assistance program in Afghanistan. It draws conclusions about the prospects for current programs and offers recommendations for corrective action. The report urges that the international community’s approach to police assistance expand to embrace a comprehensive program for security sector reform and the rule of law.

The report is based on a conference titled "Policing Afghanistan," which was hosted by the United States Institute of Peace's Security Sector Reform Working Group on May 27, 2009. It draws on the author's participation in numerous Afghanistan-related conferences, interviews, workshops, and study groups; on his two visits to the country; and on an extensive review of the literature on the Afghanistan police development program. The report also reflects the work of the author's talented research assistant, Madeline Kristoff. The report's author, Robert M. Perito, is a senior program officer in the Institute's Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations. Perito directs the Institute's Security Sector Governance Initiative, and its Project on Lessons Learned in Peace and Stability Operations.

Related Publications

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

The Current Situation in Afghanistan

Thursday, March 25, 2021

In February 2020 the U.S. and the Taliban signed an agreement that paved the way for the first direct talks between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan republic since 2001. This nascent peace process has sparked hope for a political settlement to the four-decade-long conflict, although slow progress and increasing levels of violence threaten to derail the process before it gains momentum.

Type: Fact Sheet

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s Ministry of Finance

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

By: William Byrd

Revitalizing Afghanistan’s badly damaged Ministry of Finance is critical for the state’s survival today and will be equally important during a peace process or under any interim or power-sharing arrangement. Without curbs on political interference and corruption at the ministry, Afghanistan will be hard pressed to ensure that aid pledges made at November’s Geneva international conference materialize.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment; Democracy & Governance

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

“No Going Backward”: Afghanistan’s Post–Peace Accord Security Sector

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

By: Annie Pforzheimer; Andrew Hyde; Jason Criss Howk

Failure to plan realistically for needed changes in Afghanistan’s security sector following a peace settlement—and failure to start phasing in changes now—will lead to post-settlement instability. This report examines the particular challenges Afghanistan will face, with examples from the climate following peace settlements in other parts of the world offering insight into what may occur and possibilities for response.

Type: Peaceworks

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

New Evidence: To Build Peace, Include Women from the Start

Thursday, March 11, 2021

By: Veronique Dudouet; Andreas Schädel

In the 20 years since governments declared it imperative to include women’s groups and their demands in peace processes, experience and research continue to show that this principle strengthens peace agreements and helps prevent wars from re-igniting. Yet our inclusion of women has been incomplete and, in some ways, poorly informed. Now a study of recent peace processes in Colombia, Mali, Afghanistan and Myanmar offers new guidance on how to shape women’s roles. A critical lesson is that we must ensure this inclusion from the start.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Gender; Peace Processes

View All Publications