Building Afghanistan's Security Forces in Wartime

The Soviet Experience

by Olga Oliker


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Security force assistance, specifically the development of Afghanistan's security forces, is a central pillar of the counterinsurgency campaign being waged by U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan. The outcome of the campaign hinges, in large measure, on the effectiveness of the assistance provided to the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police, and other security forces. This report provides an overview of Soviet efforts to improve and facilitate the training and development of Afghan security forces, specifically, the Afghan military, police, and intelligence services. It covers the time period from 1920–1989, with specific focus on the period of the Soviet military presence in Afghanistan, from 1979–1989. To do so, it draws on Western, Soviet, and Russian historical sources and interviews in Kabul and Moscow with individuals involved on the Soviet side and on the Afghan side. It concludes with comparisons with and lessons for ongoing security force assistance in Afghanistan.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Historical Overview: 20th-Century Security Aid to Afghanistan Before the Soviet Invasion

  • Chapter Three

    The Soviet Advisory Mission in the 1980s: Senior Leadership and Reporting Channels

  • Chapter Four

    MoI and KhAD Security Forces During the 1980s

  • Chapter Five

    The Afghan Military

  • Chapter Six

    Militias and Other Forces

  • Chapter Seven

    Afghan Security Forces Challenges and Responses

  • Chapter Eight

    The Soviet Decision to Withdraw and the Legacy of Soviet Efforts to Build Afghan Security Forces

  • Chapter Nine

    Conclusion: Parallels, Disconnects, and What the International Security Assistance Force Can Learn from the Soviet Experience

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by RAND Arroyo Center.

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