Honest brokers of the stories coming out of Afghanistan cannot say the ALP program—the Afghan Local Police, the latest scheme in a long, tattered history of trying to do “local security” in Afghanistan—is anything other than a muddled half-success. Most of the arguments I was aware of place the blame on ISAF’s inability to vet the recruits, the lack of accountability structures, and the very strong likelihood they will encourage a renewal of the warlordism that everyone wants to avoid.
Refugees International, however, offers an additional angle to the ALP story, which is part of a grander story they tell of the effects of the last two years of COIN: massive disruption to civilian life.
Despite the U.S. military’s claims of progress, insurgent attacks are up by 50% over last year, and more than 250,000 people have fled their villages in the past two years. U.S. funded and trained militias are only exacerbating this explosive situation…
Since January 1, more than 91,000 Afghans have fled their villages – compared with 42,000 over the same time period last year. This is mostly due to international and Afghan forces’ military operations against the Taliban…
Although General Petraeus touts local defense initiatives as successfully thwarting the insurgency, the proliferation of militias is increasing insecurity, especially in the north. Many new militias operate under the guise of the U.S./ISAF-backed Afghan Local Police (ALP) initiative. Internally Displaced People (IDPs), government officials, security analysts and humanitarian actors told RI that the expansion of poorly vetted, ill-trained and unsupervised ALP units and irregular militias are a major threat to civilians and stability. These armed groups have allegedly committed abuses including murder, theft, extortion, bribery and intimidation.
And so on. RI is explicit, and strident, in their condemnation of the ALP program, which is hastily-assembled and barely controlled. And they focus their criticism on the ALPs in the North, which is the sight both of a renewed insurgent offensive and probably the area with the most at stake (since it is typically the most “pro-western,” however that is defined).
In short, the military’s continued insistence on quick-fix programs to address large-scale, systemic issues is having precisely the effect thinking people could have guessed it would have: a bad one. The temporary success they showed in their first few months—I’ve written glowingly of a similar, but different, special forces-led initiative while condemning the use of militias—have evaporated, as all too many temporary successes in Afghanistan have. I hope General Allen, when he finally takes over from Petraeus, can inject a little bit of sanity into the war.