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Afghanistan's Struggle for Security


By Franz-Stefan Gady

Afghans have taken charge again of their own destiny. On June 18 the International Security and Assistance Force (ISAF) handed over complete control of security to Afghan authorities.

But there are still a host of problems that need to be overcome. The Afghan Security Forces’ weekly death toll during the height of the fighting season often exceeds 100–a rate the top NATO commander Joseph Dunford recently called “unsustainable."

Adequate resources remain a particular obstacle for long-term success. According to a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the cost of sustaining the Afghan Security Forces from 2013 to 2017 will be $25 billion. If all government revenues were allocated to defense, Afghanistan could only cover 75 percent of its security needs. 

Between 2005 to 2011, the United States essentially assumed control, funding around 90 percent of Afghanistan’s total security expenditures. NATO countries, including the United States have pledged continued support, but their total military-support payments are set to decrease from a total of $6.6 billion in 2013 to $4.1 billion in 2017. Afghanistan itself will only start officially contributing to the budget in 2015.

Hampering a continuation of Western defense support is Afghanistan’s notorious propensity for corruption. The country ranks 174 out of 176 on the 2012 Corruption Perception Index compiled by Transparency International.

In early August, high-ranking Afghan security officials met in the province of Paktia in Eastern Afghanistan to discuss their progress in the face of all these obstacles. Franz-Stefan Gady was present at the talks. Here is his account:


A convoy of buff-clad U.S. Army vehicles is slowly moving through Gardez City in Paktia in Eastern Afghanistan. The final destination is the governor’s compound where the weekly security meeting of the Afghan National Security Forces is scheduled on this early August morning. 

Even though U.S. Lt. Colonel Gregory Beaudoin (pictured above), Commanding Officer of the First Battalion of the 506th Infantry “Band of Brothers” Regiment, might have had the most dramatic and martial entrance at the reigns of the convoy, he will barely say a word during the two hour meeting. The Afghan officials barely acknowledge the American colonel, and they will not request any American aid or support

At the conclusion of the meeting, Beaudoin finally raises his voice: “You are successful here–it may not seem like it at times–but you are!”

In Afghanistan, mobile and permanent checkpoints are relied upon to project security into the local population and are manned by representatives of all sub-branches of the security forces. During the meeting, representatives of the various Afghan security organizations try to coordinate operations, share information, and initiate a new patrol and checkpoint plan for the city and its vicinities.

For the deputy governor of Paktia, Abdul Wali Sahi (pictured on the left), the Afghan Security Forces have not done enough: “Every day our hearts are being broken by the losses we sustain. We must drive the fear out of the city. The insurgents can walk freely in the city!”  According to Afghan intelligence estimates, Paktia is home to about 2000 insurgents split into 120 groups.

 The local head of the powerful National Directorate of Security (NDS)– Afghanistan’s domestic intelligence agency–General Mohamed Akhtar Ibrahimi (pictured above), admonished his colleagues from the Afghan National Army, the Afghan National Uniformed Police, and the Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP), who were gathered in a large office in the well-protected compound. “It is not good that I have to repeat this over and over again!,” he complained. “Soldiers are not taking proper care of their equipment, checkpoints are not properly manned, and we still have no night patrols, although insurgents get mostly resupplied at night.”

For General Ibrahimi, corruption in the country is a grim status quo. During the meeting he tells the story of a local prosecutor in Gardez who had just released two insurgents after receiving $20,000  by local insurgent commanders. Rather than immediately remove the prosecutor, Ibrahimi could only report the incident to his superiors and to the superiors of the culprit. The corrupt prosecutor is currently still in office.

General Oryakhel (pictured on the right), the representative of the Afghan National Uniformed Police, the stepchild of the Afghan Security Forces, but also the unit most exposed to insurgents, took the brunt of the reprimands and admitted that things were far from perfect. He claimed that a lack of financial support from the Ministry of the Interior was responsible for the underperformance of some of his units.

General Wali (pictured above), an Afghan National Army officer, complained about the difficulty of getting everyone on board: “I tried to organize a joint inspection tour of the checkpoints to divide up responsibility, but only ANCOP and NDS showed up.” This was hotly contested by General Oryakhel and others.

 The discussion continued and touched upon vandalism and the mishandling of civilians by Afghan Army Forces in downtown Gardez after one of their fellow soldiers was killed by an IED. At the end of the meeting there was no agreement on joint actions.



Franz-Stefan Gady (pictured on the right in an armored vehicle in Afghanistan) is a senior fellow at the EastWest Institute. Follow him on Twitter.

[Photos courtesy of Franz-Stefan Gady]

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