The Afghan National Police is a militarized force that has been trained and equipped to conduct counterinsurgency operations and not law enforcement. Before the withdrawal of NATO and U.S. forces, two years remain in which to help the ANP transform into a police service capable of enforcing the rule of law.

Special Report: Police Transition in Afghanistan

Summary

  • The forthcoming withdrawal of the NATO training mission in Afghanistan along with U.S. combat forces in 2014 has highlighted the failure to meet Afghanistan’s need for a national police service capable of enforcing the rule of law, controlling crime, and protecting Afghan citizens, despite a decade of effort.
  • The Afghan National Police appears unlikely to be able to enforce the rule of law following the withdrawal because of its configuration as a militarized counterinsurgency force in the fight against the Taliban.
  • Discussions are under way concerning the future of the ANP, but there is no consensus on the future size and mission of the police and no certainty about future sources of the funding, training, and equipment required.
  • Because only two years remain before the deadline for withdrawal, it is imperative that the United States and the international community urgently address the challenge of transforming the ANP from a counterinsurgency force into a police service capable of enforcing the rule of law.

About the Report

This report is based on interviews conducted in Kabul, Afghanistan, with senior U.S. and Afghan officials concerned with the Afghan National Police development program in September 2012. It also draws on research conducted by the U.S. Institute of Peace Security Sector Governance Center of Innovation, the Institute’s Afghanistan-Pakistan Program, and the Institute’s Kabul office.

About the Authors

Donald J. Planty is a former U.S. foreign service officer who served as U.S. ambassador to Guatemala from 1996 to 1999. He is an expert in security sector reform with experience in conducting successful police reform programs in Guatemala and other countries, including Afghanistan, where he supervised a program that trained police to protect judges and judicial institutions. Robert M. Perito is the director of the Center of Innovation for Security Sector Governance at the U.S. Institute of Peace. A career U.S. foreign service officer at the State Department, he also led the international police training program at the Department of Justice. He is the coauthor of Police in War: Fighting Insurgency, Terrorism, and Violent Crime and author of the forthcoming second edition of Where Is the Lone Ranger? America’s Search for a Stability Force.

Related Publications

What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Evidence-Based Policy

What Afghanistan Teaches Us About Evidence-Based Policy

Thursday, December 2, 2021

By: Corinne Graff, Ph.D.

Even as the debate over the lessons learned by the U.S. government in Afghanistan continues, several clear conclusions have emerged. One is that U.S. agencies repeatedly underestimated the time and resources needed to support a nation wracked by decades of war, while they failed to follow a consistent plan for civilian recovery efforts. U.S. personnel also lacked the training needed to be successful in the field, and monitoring and evaluation efforts did not receive the policy attention required to enable course corrections and learning. 

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyFragility & Resilience

Aiding Afghan Local Governance: What Went Wrong?

Aiding Afghan Local Governance: What Went Wrong?

Thursday, November 18, 2021

By: Frances Z. Brown

After 20 years of an ambitious, costly international state-building effort, the government of Afghanistan collapsed in the summer of 2021 in a matter of weeks. The Afghan security forces’ remarkably rapid defeat earned significant attention, but the Taliban victory over the internationally backed Afghan republic stemmed equally from deep-seated political and governance factors. Across all the facets of the Western state-building endeavor in Afghanistan, there is now an enormous need to assess how the international project fell so far short of its aims.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global PolicyDemocracy & Governance

Key to Afghan Relief Efforts: Financial Engineering for Private Sector, Economy

Key to Afghan Relief Efforts: Financial Engineering for Private Sector, Economy

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

By: William Byrd, Ph.D.

The U.S. government needs to urgently prioritize saving Afghan lives, meeting basic human needs and stemming the free-fall of the Afghan economy. The unprecedented evacuation of some 100,000 people from Kabul airport in August demonstrated what clear objectives and a whole-hearted, government-wide focus can accomplish under the worst of conditions. While that scale of mobilization is not required now, a similar unity of effort and focus, this time on financial engineering, will be needed to deliver aid to the Afghan people and limit further economic damage in coming months.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Economics & Environment

Winter is coming in Afghanistan. Are the Taliban ready?

Winter is coming in Afghanistan. Are the Taliban ready?

Thursday, November 11, 2021

By: Adam Gallagher

Nearly three months after the Taliban’s rapid takeover, Afghanistan is descending toward one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises with an economy in freefall. As the harsh winter season looms, aid agencies have warned that over half the country’s population — a staggering 22.8 million people — will face acute food insecurity, including 3.2 million children under five. Now in power, the Taliban’s failure to deliver basic services is exacerbating this dire humanitarian situation. But immediate relief is a distant prospect as the Taliban deliberate on how to govern the country and the international community mulls over how to engage and pressure the fledgling government.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & GovernanceHuman Rights

View All Publications