Militarized versus Civilian Policing: Problems of Reforming the Afghan National Police

This report studies the transition from civilian to military-dominated police-building in Afghanistan. From 2002, Germany was the lead nation responsible for coordinating international assistance for police-building. The German police programme in Afghanistan was designed as a sustainable project with a civilian approach. However, Germany only invested relatively little funds in the building and reform of the ANP. This reflected the initially rather limited involvement of the international community as a whole in Afghanistan. The United States’ Afghanistan policy relied on cooperation with the warlords as well as on the military regime in Pakistan. This policy served to strengthen the armed opposition forces. Once it became clear that the building of the ANP was not progressing quickly enough, the USA de facto assumed the lead role in police-building in Afghanistan. This meant a change of paradigm from a civilian-based
police reform to a military-based police reform. Militarization was accelerated by the US dominated change of strategy in favour of counterinsurgency in 2009.

The report refers to the problems of the dominance of military elements in building the ANP. It is not clear whether the militarization of the ANP has significantly improved the chances of survival for members of the Afghan police. What is certain is that militarization cannot solve the problem of the weak legitimacy of the Afghan state. There is still a lack of trust between the public and the police, especially as the ANP is inadequately equipped to prevent or solve crimes. Moreover, the possible long-term consequences of militarization are problematic: It is easier to militarize the police now than it will be to drive out the spirit of militarization at a later date. The militarization of the ANP is therefore at the best ineffective and at the worst counterproductive. Only a police force which the people trust can be effective.

Police Services