May 10, 2018

Ghani and the failed security transition

By Khaama Press - Mon Feb 13 2017, 1:53 pm

By Naveed Zulfiqar

The opinions, beliefs, viewpoints and comments expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Khaama Press’s editorial policy.

On November 2010, the NATO summit in Lisbon concluded with initial decision on transferring the full responsibility of Afghanistan’s security to Afghanistan National Defense & Security Forces (ANDSF) by the end of 2014. This transition strategy paved the way for the Afghan government to assess the newly established ANDSF within a framework to achieve its core objectives. [1]

The establishment of Afghan Transition Coordination Commission (Inteqal Commission) led & conceptualized by Dr. Ashraf Ghani had the full responsibility of security transition across the country by the end of 2014. While Dr Ghani initiated the transition process on an optimistic assumption on the capacity of ANDSF, but the reality on the ground was not assessed thoroughly. ANDSF hs been dealing with complex security challenges on the ground and weak leadership and management at the top that has turned the ongoing insurgency into a never ending war.

2016 took the highest number of casualties among security forces (tolonews report) In many cases, the soldiers in battle field were killed due to insufficient logistical support, and this clearly shows the weak coordination, management and the leadership of ANDSF. To guarantee the sustainability of ANA beyond financial aspect, the leadership needs to ensure meritocracy as a value in forces and disconnect the security institutions from external interdependency and interference of political factionalism. The nepotistic pressure and ethnocentric benefits happen at the leadership level of military institutions as well. This has significant impact on moral and loyalty of ANDSF. For example following to the fall of Kunduz in 2014, the assessor of this failure former NDS chief Amrullah Saleh estimated that over 90 percent of ANSF leaders appointed by political favoritism and factionalism.[2]

The upper and middle echelons of Afghan forces are filled by people who have not risen to their promotions in a democratic system. They are not “secu-crats”: Most of them have been placed in their posts through political consultations and personal connections. This directly affects the loyalty and inspiration of the officers at different levels. […] Interference in the management of the security forces, be it in the upper or lower levels, slowstheir growth rate, increases their expenses, and strikes a major blow to their morale. The nepotistic appointment of officers in upper and middle echelons of the security force will at best protect narrow interests instead of national ones.



The question is unanswered; if security transition was based on regular assessment of the security, governance and development situation on the ground then why 43% of territory is insecure and the casualties of military and civilian is increased compare to years back?

The Kunduz assessment identified the risks, vulnerability area in leadership in security forces then why the Afghan government didn’t take any remedial action. For instance, right after transition, several districts such as Dashte-Archi, Imam Sahib, Char-Dara fall into hands of Taliban. But the government didn’t take any effective steps to minimize the security risks.

The recent statement of Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. testified in Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday 9-Feb-2017 to increase a few thousand additional troops to effectively train and advise Afghan soldiers [1], was followed by serious reaction of Afghan Presidents Office. However, Nader Nadery, a top aid to the President said troop levels was not the focus of the call and it can be decided following the military assessment. Will the Afghan government delay the military assessment for couple of more months? Or they will wait for another catastrophic event such as Kunduz and Helmand provinces.

The recent statistics by SIGAR shows that the Afghan government is loosing the control [2]. On the other hand, Afghan forces have taken the highest causalities over the last years but the military generals have been holding themselves behind the desks in Kabul and the pressure of battlefield is on the newly trained and inexperienced soldiers.



From the beginning as the Transition process started, the shift of security responsibility was not strategically planned, despite of understanding the history, level and dynamics of conflicts, especially the political tension, ISIS emergence and Pakistan “safe heaven of terrorism and insurgency”.

The weak commitment, lack of ability to prosecute corruption cases, confronting nepotism and creating accountablity are the widely recognized challenges in MOD. The frequent changes in security sector leadership indicate the political pressure on them and as a result it disturbs the strategic ministerial developments and reforms. Many other challenges are still faced by ANDSF & its leadership:

  1. Conducting parliamentarian election in year 1396, since 43% of territory is not in control of the government as per SIGAR’s recent calculations. Therefore, the fair and free election is a major challenge. The fake voting cards and insecure community will decide the result of the elections. It will pull Afghanistan to another electoral crisis like the one in 2014.
  2. The insurgents and regional terrorist group supported by neighbors and other regional countries are pulling ANSF towards a stalemate. The Afghan government can’t afford to waste the already lost opportunity to enact the right people at the leadership of national and defense security forces.
  1. Ensuring competence & effectiveness of ANSF can’t be guaranteed without addressing on the financial sustainability of defense and security forces. The speculations around ghost soldiers within the defense & security forces has already challenged the accuracy of the size of force
  1. Fight against corruption is one of the priorities for international community and the Afghan government has promised to tackle this fight. But, little is seen in action


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