Cover: Assessing the Ability of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs to Support the Afghan Local Police

Assessing the Ability of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs to Support the Afghan Local Police

Published Jul 21, 2016

by Jefferson P. Marquis, Sean Duggan, Brian J. Gordon, Lisa Kraus


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Research Questions

  1. Where does the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program stand with regard to the logistics, personnel management, and training activities essential to its success?
  2. What lessons can be learned from transitioning control of the ALP program from Coalition organizations to the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI), leading to recommendations for future capacity-building effort in similar nations?

RAND researchers assess the ability of the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MOI) to support the Afghan Local Police (ALP) program; evaluate the range of logistics, personnel management, and training activities essential to the success of ALP's local security mission; and identify lessons from support to the program that might prove useful when undertaking similar efforts to help build local security forces in the future.

This analysis relies primarily on interviews conducted in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2015 with Coalition and Afghan officials involved in the ALP program. To a lesser extent, the analysis draws on quantitative logistics and personnel reporting.

While some MOI and Coalition initiatives have fared better than others and some are still a work in progress, our research shows some positive results — in the form of recruits processed and vetted, equipment received, forces paid, and candidates trained — with limited Coalition assistance since the end of 2014. However, examples of improved capabilities do not yet equate to an institutional commitment and capacity to sustain the ALP program. Still, for future U.S. government efforts to assist foreign partners in building the capacity of their local security forces, there are important insights that can be derived from the experience of transitioning ALP to full Afghan control.

Key Findings

Logistics, Personnel Management, and Training Activities Have Progressed but Still Need Work

  • With Coalition assistance, MOI has made strides to improve its logistics practices and results. The Coalition's 2012 initiative to eliminate bottlenecks when providing ALP with initial equipment was mostly successful. Since the transition of the program to full Afghan control in 2014, the Coalition's ability to assess ALP's logistic situation has been significantly curtailed. Available information indicates that some ALP districts are receiving adequate levels of supplies while others face substantial shortages. More needs to be done if the Afghans are to acquire sufficient capacity to requisition, track, store, transport, distribute, and maintain necessary quantities of ALP equipment and supplies.
  • Afghans have begun to acquire and demonstrate many of the capabilities necessary to successfully manage ALP personnel. For example, Afghan elders, government officials, and contractors are currently handling all ALP recruiting, vetting, and in-processing tasks with no assistance from the Coalition. Despite these hopeful signs, the deteriorating security situation in parts of Afghanistan has contributed to the development of local militia groups, some of which use the ALP banner but do not follow the rigorous personnel management procedures that are the hallmark of the ALP program.
  • The state of ALP training is good compared with the situation in the rest of the Afghan police force. As of early 2015, approximately 86 percent of the ALP force had attended a formal training course. Nevertheless, there are still security and logistics concerns in transporting ALP guardians to regional training centers. Thus, many Coalition advisers we spoke to agreed that a hybrid training system -- with local and regional aspects -- was the best option for the future.


  • Advisers must take account of the operating environment and work in concert with various partners. U.S. advisers must do their best to first understand the lay of the land and then recommend a support plan that either circumvents or erodes potential blockages.
  • Pull-based logistics systems often take a long time to evolve; therefore, rather than attempting to make the immediate leap to a first-tier, pull-based stock replenishment system, donors should consider simpler alternatives that account for the partner's level of resources, literacy, technical competence, communications, and data availability, and then transition to a mature pull-based system at an appropriate pace.
  • Managing dispersed forces requires a balance between local autonomy and central oversight. Advisers and host-nation officials need to find a balance between encouraging local leaders to take charge of the daily management of local security forces and ensuring that the former raise and employ the latter appropriately and continue to provide adequate support to them.
  • Centralized training has advantages, but a hybrid system may work best over the long term. To accomplish this, advisers should perform a comprehensive assessment of the training needs of all of the elements of the police force and, along with host-nation officials, develop training plans that employ a combination of regional training centers, local training venues, and mobile training teams.
  • If politically feasible, a multi-level coalition advisory structure should be maintained until the host nation has an assured sustainment capability. This would permit coalition advisers to continue to work with headquarters officials and local leaders on resolving management issues pertaining to the police and military.

This research was sponsored by the Special Operations Joint Task Force — Afghanistan/NATO Special Operations Component Command — Afghanistan and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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