Afghan Local Police (ALP)

Afghan Local Police (ALP)
ALP member (Photo USIP Dec 2013)

The Afghan Local Police (ALP) was established by U.S. Army Special Forces in 2010 to serve as a locally-based village or community self-defense force. The ALP units are recruited from local communities of key areas where Afghan government influence or control was minimal. The recruits are selected and vetted by the village or community leaders and are also screened by the Afghan National Police (ANP) and Ministry of Interior (MoI).

The Afghan Local Police were part of a larger counterinsurgency program of the U.S. Special Forces called Village Stability Operations (VSO). The VSO program entailed a comprehensive and complementary plan incorporating aspects of security, governance, and development utilizing a ‘bottom up’ methodology.

The ‘top down’ system of pushing security, development, and governance from Kabul to the provinces and districts was viewed as not working. This was caused by inexperienced, corrupt, and inept government officials and organizations at the national and provincial level. Many Special Forces personnel believed that the establishment of local security forces similar to the Afghan historical arbakai would capitalize on Afghans who would likely fight for their own tribes and communities but would be less inclined to fight for a central government located in a distant Kabul.

A number of key districts were identified by the U.S. Special Forces for the establishment of Village Stability Platforms (VSPs). The ‘platforms’ were a tailor-made ad hoc unit of between 30-50 individuals formed around the nucleus of a special operations team (Green Berets, SEALs, or MARSOC). The ‘platforms’ were augmented by a variety of individuals to include mechanics, intelligence analysts, cooks, SIGINT, interpreters, PSYOP, Civil Affairs, Cultural Support Team (CST), and others.

The Afghan Local Police were a key component of the Village Stability Operations program – providing the ‘security’ aspect of VSO (along with the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police that were also within the VSO area of operations).

The ALP units were established once the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) conducted a detailed analysis of the proposed area to determine if the village, community, or district needed a VSO / ALP program, if the program could be successful, and if there was adequate support from the local community. In addition, the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) had to approve of the ALP unit being formed.

The village elders, Afghan security representatives, and special operations personnel would conduct a ‘shura’ and / or ‘jirga’ to discuss the forming of an ALP unit. If the community was receptive then the recruitment of ALP members would proceed. The recruits would be screened by the Afghan security representatives and vetted by the community.

The formal three-week training program was usually conducted by the U.S. special operations team that would form the nucleus of the Village Stability Platform. Often times the ALP recruits would go to a regional training center. Eventually training would be done by the Afghan National Army Special Forces and later by the Afghan National Police.

As the drawdown of U.S. and Coalition troops began in 2012 the United States began closing down some of the Village Stability Platforms and transferring the responsibility of the VSPs and ALP to the respective District Governor (DGov) and District Chief of Police (DCoP). Naturally, without the constant supervision, oversight, advice, assistance, training, and support of the U.S. special operations teams the effectiveness, in most cases, of the Afghan Local Police diminished.

As of 2016 the Afghan Local Police has been fully transferred to the Afghan Ministry of Interior. Almost all U.S. SOF have been removed from training and advising of the ALP. The only exception is a small advisory team located at Camp Resolute Support HQs in Kabul that works with the Afghan MoI on ALP issues. This ‘Special Operations Advisory Group’ or SOAG – of probably 20-25 members – monitors, provides oversight, and performs the ‘Train, Advise, and Assist’ mission for the ALP directorate of the MoI. [1]

There are still some issues with the ALP. The Ministry of Interior had, while the special operations teams were conducting VSO, established ‘unilateral ALP’ units. These were formed, most times without the knowledge of U.S. forces, without the ALP establishment process (selection and vetting) and training the ‘U.S. approved’ ALP units had received. There was constant disagreement between the SOF HQs [2] and the MoI on where ALP units should be formed up. Afghan politics generally interfered with what made sense from a counterinsurgency standpoint.

In addition, warlords and power brokers would form up local militias and call them ALP. While not recognized by the Ministry of Interior and not supported by the United States the international community would sometimes confuse these illegal militias with the ‘official ALP’. This, in turn, would cause a lot of bad press when the ‘so-called ALP’ engaged in humanitarian abuses, corruption, intimidation, and predatory practices – leading the international press (usually European) to criticize the ALP program.

Presently – in 2016 – the ALP program is a successful yet troubled program. There is need for reform on a number of issues – insufficient equipment, poor training, lack of oversight, corruption, ‘ghost policemen’, and more. The Afghan government wants to increase the size of the ALP from it’s present strength of 28,000 to 40,000 (maybe even higher). However, the U.S. SOF community (SOJTF-A) as well as Resolute Support HQs is reluctant to proceed with this request until the ALP reforms are fully implemented.

As of 2016 the Afghan Local Police has proven to be a successful program; although it has some faults. From a standpoint of establishing security in remote districts it proved to inhibit the movement of insurgents, garnered the support of the local population, was a critical part of the Village Stability Operations program, and contributed to the overall security of their area of operations. Certainly the program could have used greater support from the Afghan government, Ministry of Interior, local governmental officials, and some Coalition conventional unit commanders. If the proposed reforms are implemented, continued funding is appropriated by the U.S. Congress, and the Ministry of Interior improves its support of the program then the Afghan Local Police will prove to have been a positive security measure for the Afghan government.

Footnotes:

[1] Some critics who want an increased advisory presence in Afghanistan (therefore higher troop levels) suggest that increasing the SOF support to the ALP program – beyond the current SOAG – is warranted.

[2] The higher SOF headquarters coordinating with the Ministry of Interior was the Combined Joint Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) – a one-star command based in the Kabul area. Later CFSOCC-A would morph into NSOCC-A / SOJTF-A. NSOCC-A / SOJTF-A is a two-star command that was comprised of the former CFSOCC-A, NATO SOF, and Task Force organizations.

References:

Goodhand, Jonathan and Aziz Hakimi, Counterinsurgency, Local Militias, and Statebuilding in Afghanistan, United States Institute of Peace, December 2014.
www.usip.org/sites/default/files/PW90-Counterinsurgency-Local-Militias-and-Statebuilding-in-Afghanistan.pdf

About John Friberg 95 Articles

John Friberg is the Editor and Publisher of SOF News. He is a retired Command Chief Warrant Officer (CW5 180A) with 40 years service in the U.S. Army Special Forces with active duty and reserve components.