From Arbaki to Local Police Today’s Challenges and Tomorrow’s Concerns
The Afghan Local Police (ALP) is a scheme for providing security in areas that face actual security threats from the armed opposition and lack adequate national security forces. The present report assesses the performance of the ALP in providing security in these areas and the ALP future.
The ALP can be effective in providing security in a number of areas in the short run, but there is a concern that in the long run the ALP can itself turn into a challenge for the rule of law and the authority of the government, causing further insecurity and human rights violations in communities.
This report shows that in many cases, the ALP has not been established and its members have not been recruited in accordance with the principles and standards enshrined in the Procedure on the Regulation and Establishment of the Local Police. The recruitment process is hugely influenced by commanders, local authorities, and local influential figures. On the other hand, the US Special Forces have also interfered in the recruitment of the ALP members. Sometimes the ALP has even been established by them in communities. The creation of the ALP under the influence of local commanders, influential figures, and foreign forces without the supervision of the government can make the ALP members disobey the government and legal institutions of the central government. In absence of central government’s authority and rule, the ALP members have harassed the public population. This causes disorder, insecurity, and lack of public trust in the government.
This report indicates that a number of individuals who have been thus recruited in the ALP have had membership records in illegal armed groups, arbakis, and the Taliban; most of them have been members of hostile groups in the past. Some of them are notorious for having committed criminal acts and people have very bad memories of them. According to a number of officials, there are individuals within the ALP who have bad war records and who are even serial killers. This makes people lose their confidence in the ALP and even in the government. In some areas, the ethnic and tribal balance has not been observed in the ALP composition. As a consequence, people do not support them.
The ALP illiteracy rate is over 90 percent and it is reportedly around 98 percent in some areas and those ALP members who are literate only have primary education. Although the Procedure considers a three-week training course for the ALP members and special training programs have been organized for them in a number of areas, these programs are not sufficiently effective, because their duration is very short for illiterate and inadequately literate individuals and this is not sufficient for learning duties, treatment of the public population, and human rights norms and standards. This seriously challenges the efficiency and effectiveness of the ALP.
The present report demonstrates that the ALP has been able to improve the security situation in some areas. The ALP has had a positive performance particularly in Marjah, Nad Ali, Nawah, Garmsir, Gereshk, Musa Qala, and Sangin districts of Helmand province and local officials in Kunar, Kunduz, Jawzjan, Sar-e Pul, and Nuristan have expressed their satisfaction with the role and performance of the ALP in providing security for communities.
Nonetheless, many cases of the ALP negative performance have also been reported. Some of these instances of negative performance include infringements upon the ALP legal powers. As mentioned earlier, the Procedure on the Regulation and Establishment of the Local Police has not been observed in recruitment of the ALP members and the recruitment process has been influenced by local commanders, strongmen, and foreign forces. In some areas, including Helmand and Uruzgan, the ALP has gone outside its areas of responsibility and conducted operations in other districts and even provinces, while an ALP area of responsibility is limited to a community and to a district in the maximum and that is subject to approval of and coordination by relevant district security and administrative authorities.
In a number of areas, citizens and local government officials have reported that the ALP interferes in local conflicts among various ethnicities and tribes and is even implicated in conflicts with people, sometimes perpetrating such criminal acts as robbery, destruction of houses, harassment of people, beating, and even murder. Abuse of weapon and uniform and carrying weapons outside the assigned communities and districts, interference in people’s family affairs, and attempt to detain and imprison people have also been reported.
In addition, the ALP has been accused of committing human rights violations in a number of areas. Reports indicate that various cases of human rights violations have been perpetrated by the ALP. According to these reports and the AIHRC interviews with people and local government officials in provinces and districts, the ALP has been accused of committing such acts as harassment of people, beating, murder, robbery, abduction, banditry, extortion, forcing people to pay ushr tax, poll tax, and the like.
Most of these violations have taken place in areas where local commanders, the Taliban members, and individuals with bad past records have been recruited within the ALP structure or where the ALP has not been able to win public support and satisfaction due to lack of ethnic/tribal balance in its composition or because of its illiteracy and lack of awareness about laws and human rights values. Furthermore, the ALP has committed more human rights violations in areas affected by local and ethnic/tribal conflicts.
Although people, in some cases, have complained against the ALP to pertinent authorities, but people, in most cases, cannot complain against the ALP to pertinent authorities for fear of retaliation. Some officials and strongmen protect the ALP from public complaints. Additionally, lack of people’s awareness about their rights and follow-up of cases, corruption in the justice system, and impunity of violators have caused people not to approach courts and other relevant government institutions and refrain from following up their cases. Unfortunately, not only the ALP, but also the Afghan National Police (ANP) has sometimes committed criminal acts that have gone uninvestigated. Corruption in the government, particularly in the justice system, has reduced public confidence into government institutions in general and in judicial organs in particular. This situation paves the way for infiltration of and recruitment by the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.
All in all, the ALP has won relative public support and has been more successful in performing its duties in areas where it has been established according to the relevant Procedure and people have been consulted about its formation. But the ALP has not been able to win public support and satisfaction and has mostly failed to provide security in areas where its recruitment has been influenced by local commanders and influential figures or it has been established by the US forces. Therefore, the success of the ALP fundamentally depends on public support and satisfaction and public satisfaction is gained when the ALP members are not recruited from among individuals with bad past records or from among former members of hostile groups during the war or from among the Taliban members, since these individuals have been involved in and have spread local disputes and ethnic and tribal conflicts in the communities in the past.
Based on these points, the present report assesses concerns about the future of the ALP. The ALP composition and structure; influence of local commanders, influential figures, and foreign forces in the ALP establishment and recruitment; presence and role of individuals and groups with bad past records; and high illiteracy rate in the ALP have made people apprehensive about the ALP future. Additionally, the ALP is not under the monitoring and control of the government, its members are not adequately disciplined, and there is no organized and regular relationship among different units of the ALP. Also this force is usually established in areas that are insecure where government authority is very weak. This also reduces chances for government monitoring and control.
Although the ALP has been created to provide security for communities, considering these issues, it is likely to be exploited by the armed opposition, narcotics mafia and human trafficking groups, and local commanders with a consequential potential for spreading ethnic/tribal differences and insecurities in communities. There is also the apprehension that the growing power of the ALP in outlying areas without serious government monitoring and control can even turn the ALP into the armed opposition resisting government authority and the rule of law. Therefore, there are three concerns about the future of the ALP: concern over the weakening of national sovereignty as a result of the power of the ALP in communities, concern over spreading violence and increasing insecurity in communities caused by the ALP, and concern over growing crime and mounting human rights violations by the ALP.
Another section of this report assesses the presence of illegal armed groups and arbakis in communities. Such groups are currently present in many insecure areas, sometimes clashing with one another or with police forces and/or with the Taliban. They are against any type of monitoring and control and in general, they benefit from lawlessness, disorder, and lack of a central monitoring and accountability authority. Therefore, these groups are not consistent in their behavior and performance with regard to both the Taliban and the government and they are likely to clash with both parties or align with one party against the other due to their economic interests. Individuals affiliated with such groups commit crime and offence in most areas, are implicated in security incidents, and are sometimes supported by the US forces in the fight against the Taliban. Also arbakis and illegal armed groups are, in some cases, supported by a number of provincial and district government officials and even by powerful persons in top government positions. Sometimes prominent and high-ranking government officials illegally arm irresponsible individuals, pay them, and put government facilities at their disposal.
This report shows that arbakis have already been present in almost all areas where the ALP has been created and that they have huge infiltration within the ALP structure. In most communities, people do not differentiate between the ALP and arbakis. Therefore, they see no difference between the ALP and arbakis. It is interesting that sometimes government officials do not make such a distinction either. As a result, acts committed by arbakis and irresponsible armed forces in communities can negatively affect the image of the ALP in public opinion. With its existing composition, the ALP cannot win public support and trust in and provide stable and durable security for communities.