Friday, June 3, 2016

Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan

"Security mechanisms in Afghanistan have been technically re-engineered,
but their sustainability looks arguable."

The thorny Afghan security sector reform (SSR) programme has been a high-profile failure when resources and results are compared (see studies such as Barakat & Zyck, 2009; Murray, 2011 and Sedra, 2006, 2013). Conflicting internal power groups and competing external roles was further aggravated by fragmented and incomprehensive approach in SSR in Afghanistan. Donors divided their responsibilities (the US for the military, Germany for the police, Italy for justice, the UK for illegal narcotics, and Japan for DDR) but their jobs overlapped at times. Germany trained ‘professional’ police, later the US involved in creating patrolling police. Police reform programmes streamlined only after the European Union Police (EUPOL) mission arrived in 2007 which worked with the US military’s Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) (Murray, 2011). After 2008, the NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan (NTM-A) took charge of all military and police training and the EUPOL looked after civilian police training. Leadership and ministerial capacities received attention only after this period (Sedra, 2013).

The US government tried to boost parliamentary oversight capacity since 2008 through Afghanistan Parliamentary Assistance Program. But it decanted huge money into the military and police than in the development (US security assistance in 2011 was 20 times higher than its development assistance) (Murray, 2011). Military model was applied to police reform and recruitment measures; training and deployment were emphasised over penal and legal reform. It capitalised effectiveness of agencies over their democratic governance and accountability (Murray, 2011; Sedra, 2006). National security overrode human security where pouring in of large chunk of resource into counter-insurgency ventures were mistaken for SSR. Besides, the ‘pressure for withdrawal in donor countries’ and ‘imperatives of winning the war’ (Sedra, 2013) eclipsed the gamut of SSR principles and efforts were unilaterally guided by anti-terrorism not peacebuilding principles.

Murray (2011) and Sedra (2006, 2013) are critical of the strategic planning formulated in NATO and EU headquarters with less input from host government and public dialogues. Local adaptation of SSR was not possible without understanding primordial orientation, political history and cultural inheritance. Informal legal practices and cultural orientation were at odds with the ‘liberal’ mindsets of the donors. Consequently, constitutionally enshrined civilian control remained ineffective in everyday decisions.

Conventional ‘train-and-equip’ (Sedra, 2013) form of security restructuring obscured democratic governance, human rights, parliamentary oversight and sustainability. DDR programme demobilised 61,000 soldiers till 2005 and collected 36,000 SALWs with inclusion of large number of deserting rebels into the police (Sedra, 2006). But compared to police and penal bodies, Afghan National Army fared well in terms of organisational skills and morale. Exception is a perception which believes that the SSR failed to depoliticise and de-ethnicise the security sector (ibid). In nut-shell, existing security structure was technically re-engineered but its sustainability looks costly for the Afghan economy because a serious resource crunch is imminent.
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For a comparative analytical perspective, see: DoI: 10.1080/21647259.2016.1156813

Recommended citation: Ghimire, S. (2016). Making Security Sector Reform Organic: Infrastructure for Peace as an Entry Point? Peacebuilding.

Barakat, S., & Zyck, S. A. (2009). The Evolution of Post-conflict Recovery. Third World Quarterly, 30(6), 1069–1086.
Murray, T. (2011). Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan, 2002-2011: An Overview of a Flawed Process. International Studies, 48(1), 43–63.
Sedra, M. (2006). Security sector reform in Afghanistan: The slide towards expediency. International Peacekeeping, 13(1), 94–110.
Sedra, M. (2013). The hollowing-out of the liberal peace project in Afghanistan: the case of security sector reform. Central Asian Survey, 32(3), 371–387.

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