Missing in Transition?: Why a focus on military hand-over alone misses the point in Loya Paktia

Teaser Image Caption
Students stand in formation to greet a congressional delegation at the Afghan National Police Academy, in Kabul


In July 2011, ISAF officially handed over seven areas to Afghan National Security Forces, beginning a process to gradually transition all security responsibility from international to Afghan leadership. Twenty areas have now been formally transitioned to the Afghan National Security Force, which is, “part of the unfolding plan for all NATO combat troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014.”

Drawing on The Liaison Office’s experience in the Loya Paktia (the region comprising Khost, Paktia, and Paktika provinces), this paper examines the shortcomings of a transition strategy that focuses almost exclusively on security, while ignoring important social and political factors that could undermine the strategy.

After providing an overview of the status of the different Afghan National Security Forces in Loya Paktia, the paper argues that while these forces can successfully maintain security in areas where the insurgency is already weakened, they are unable to establish, maintain, and expand the government’s control over areas where insurgents are deeply entrenched.

It goes on to argue that simply increasing the number of Afghan National Security Forces and boosting capacity through the provision of equipment and training will not produce security forces capable of providing stability. Successful transition instead requires a broader focus that equally recognizes and seeks to address the serious political divides that currently plague the Afghan National Security Forces.

These imbalances are evident in Loya Paktia where local Pashtun residents consider the Afghan National Security Forces to be dominated by political networks. Residents feel excluded from security forces whose leadership is disproportionately comprised of former ruling communist party members (the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan), former Northern Alliance/United Front members, and a handful of pro-government tribes. The absence of local Pashtun leadership contributes to the general under-representation of local Pashtuns in the security forces. A greater focus on addressing these shortcomings is fundamental to ensure that Afghan National Security Forces are able to provide stability throughout Afghanistan.