Securing the Future of Afghanistan - Defence Committee Contents

2  Transfer of responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan Forces

9. In November 2009, as part of his inauguration speech, President Karzai stated that Afghan forces would be capable of maintaining security in Afghanistan within the next five years:

    Within the next three years, Afghanistan, with continued international support and in line with the growth of its defense capacity, wants to lead and conduct military operations in the many insecure areas of the country. As they already have in Kabul, our own security forces should be able to take control of security of other provinces as well, and thus the role of the international troops will be gradually reduced and limited to support and training of Afghan forces. We are determined that by the next five years, the Afghan forces are capable of taking the lead in ensuring security and stability across the country.[8]

10. At the Lisbon Summit in November 2010, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and those nations contributing to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) decided on the transition of security responsibility from ISAF to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) to enable Afghanistan to take full responsibility for its security. They agreed that there would be a gradual process of transferring security responsibility for districts and provinces from ISAF Forces to those of the ANSF. This transition would begin in 2011 and would be conditions-based: ISAF troops would remain in a supportive role in those areas where responsibility had been transferred. The transition to full responsibility for security across Afghanistan should be completed by the end of 2014.[9] This intention was subsequently confirmed at the Chicago Summit in May 2012[10] and in the Tokyo declaration in July 2012.[11]

Counterinsurgency strategy for Helmand

11. Following the US surge in troop numbers in 2010, the UK developed a counterinsurgency model for central Helmand which increasingly placed the ANSF in the lead; the aim was to set the conditions under which Afghan governance and development activity could begin to have an effect. UK Armed Forces would support and mentor the ANSF, building up their capabilities and their confidence to undertake operations. Box 2 details the progress of this policy and the gradual transfer of responsibility for operations from UK Forces to the ANSF.

Box 2: The transfer of responsibility to the ANSF in Helmand[12]
    With the improved force densities that resulted from the US surge in 2010, the UK has developed and evolved a clear counterinsurgency model for central Helmand which has increasingly placed the ANSF in the lead. The first phase was to establish force concentrations within the most populated areas, in order to set the conditions within which Afghan governance and development activity could begin to have an effect. Throughout Herrick 12 and Herrick 13 (April 2010 to April 2011), 4 Mechanised and 16 Air Assault Brigade sought to establish security zones around the key population centres, particularly Lashkar Gah, Gereshk and the green zone around the river Helmand. These were then gradually but aggressively expanded, increasing the proportion of the central Helmand population under the ISAF and Afghan security footprint and, consequently, Afghan governance. This activity also had the effect of disrupting insurgent attempts to concentrate its activity, providing space within which the ANA and AUP could develop in both capability and confidence.

    This model was sufficiently advanced by July 2011 that the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah and its surrounding environs was included in tranche 1 of transition. During Herrick 15, there were no requests for ISAF to support the ANSF in delivering security within the transitioned areas. During 3 Commando Brigade's tour on Herrick 14, there was also a clear focus on consolidating the gains that had been made, as well as on developing ANSF operational and planning capability. The Operation 'Omid' (Hope) series in Herrick 13 and 14 saw, for the first time, large scale operations planned and led by the ANSF, with ISAF providing support with an increasingly lighter touch.

    In September/October 2011, the Nad-e Ali South and North Battlegroup Headquarters merged to simplify engagement with the district authorities, reflecting the shifting focus to governance and transition, as well as the significant improvements in security that had been achieved. In December 2011 Nad-e Ali formally entered transition. By that point, a model which saw the AUP providing security in the centre, with ANA disrupting activity in the periphery areas and ISAF providing support throughout, as well as the ability to conduct and enable disruption operations in the peripheral areas, was well established.

    By March 2012 security responsibility for the entire Lashkar Gah district had been transferred to the Afghans. ANSF capability was such that they were now capable of planning and executing operations independently of ISAF support, and frequently did so during the Herrick 15. In early 2012 an ANSF operational design for central Helmand emerged. This plan, written and owned by the Afghans, mapped for the first time security activity against the Provincial Governor's security priorities. This outlined a succession of complementary operations, planned and led by the Afghans with UK forces providing a supporting and advisory role, to further expand the ANSF security footprint, dominate contested areas and target insurgent supply routes. In the early operations the insurgent resistance was often light, suggesting that they were aware in advance of these operations; but the operations nevertheless demonstrated publicly that the ANSF were capable of delivering security in a coordinated way.

    In May 2012 Nahr-e Saraj was announced as entering tranche 3 of transition, which is due to begin before the end of October. This is the final district for which the UK has responsibility. There are still areas within the three districts where the insurgent has relative freedom of movement, and he will remain capable of launching attacks into the protected communities. However, he is unable to concentrate his forces in a meaningful way. The ANSF operational design has exposed operational-level Afghan thinking which emphasises the importance of the main population centres and transport routes between them. As a result, it has identified those areas which are of less significance to the ANSF and has allowed UK forces to realign themselves to better reflect Afghan priorities. Increasingly, operations will be Afghan run with UK adviser or mentoring support and enablers, which will themselves gradually decrease over time. The focus of the UK counterinsurgency campaign in central Helmand is now on delivering a capable, confident ANSF which is able to protect the gains that have been made over the past six years.

Source: MoD

Security situation in Afghanistan

Levels of violence

12. ISAF reported an increase of six per cent in the number of enemy initiated attacks in the three months from May to July 2012 compared to the same quarter in 2011[13] but, in September to November 2012, there had been a fall of 13 per cent.[14] Security in Afghanistan varies across the regions, with the majority of the violence occurring in the south, south west and east of the country. In the south west which includes the UK's area of operations, ISAF recorded a three per cent decrease in enemy initiated attacks.[15]


13. Armed conflict in Afghanistan has continued to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians in 2012. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 7,559 civilian casualties (2,754 deaths and 4,805 injuries) from armed conflict in 2012. This decrease of 12 per cent in the number of civilian deaths was the first in six years. In its annual report for 2012, UNAMA reported:

    While these numbers reflect a 12 per cent reduction in civilian deaths and a minimal increase in civilian injuries compared to 2011 they underscore the continuing high human cost of armed conflict in Afghanistan - which demands even greater commitment and redoubled efforts by all parties to reduce civilian casualties and improve protection of civilians in 2013. Over the past six years, 14,728 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the armed conflict.[16]

14. Eighty-one per cent of the civilian casualties were attributed to anti-government elements. While there was an overall fall in civilian casualties, the number injured by those opposing the Government has risen by nine per cent. The United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan said:

    Indiscriminate and unlawful use of improvised explosive devices by Anti-Government Elements remains the single biggest killer of civilians. Steep increases in the deliberate targeting of civilians perceived to be supporting the Government demonstrates another grave violation of international humanitarian law.[17]


15. As violence has continued in Afghanistan, in particular, in the south and east, we wanted to ascertain whether the insurgency was still operating at the same level as in previous years. The MoD told us that insurgent activity was concentrated in the more sparsely populated rural areas:

    There remain parts of Afghanistan where the insurgency is able to operate with relative freedom of movement and exert a dominant influence on the local population. However, both nationally and in Helmand this affects only a relatively small minority of the Afghan population. These areas are not clearly defined and the nature of insurgent influence is complex; who has influence in an area cannot be described in simple black or white terms. The areas where the insurgents maintain a degree of influence, or one that is at least not regularly challenged, are within the large rural areas of the country and not the major population centres.[18]

Brigadier Chalmers, the returning Commander of Task Force Helmand, confirmed that the violence had moved out of the more populated areas.[19] He also said:

    In the three central districts, the city of Lashkar Gah, Gereshk and a number of market towns, [...] the level of violence has only dipped very slightly. What has changed is where that violence is taking place. There has been a significant change over time. The violence has been displaced out of the market town areas and the deeply farmed areas, more into the dasht or the desert areas outwith those areas. That has allowed Afghan local and economic confidence to grow over the summer, and that is now being secured by Afghan security forces.[20]

16. The displacement of fighting into outlying desert areas has had some unfortunate consequences. We were told that cultivation of opium had been pushed out of the Helmand valley into the desert which was now controlled by the Taliban. During our visit to Afghanistan in November 2012, we were told that cultivation had required the digging of illegal wells which had disrupted local water supplies and had resulted in anger in the law-abiding community. On our visit to the Helmand PRT, they told us that starving, dispossessed people had drifted to the fringes to farm poppies as the only option to feed their families. As Government forces sought to suppress these people, they were providing natural support for the Taliban.

17. The Afghan Government must ensure that it takes steps to address the security issues caused by the increasing number of displaced people across Afghanistan, who may find themselves targeted for recruitment by the Taliban.

18. There were two recent high profile attacks in Kabul in January 2013. Two vehicle carrying improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were targeted at the National Directorate of Security and Traffic Police headquarters resulting in the deaths of five personnel. The ANSF responded to both incidents with little support from ISAF.[21] As the ANSF has taken the lead in more security operations- now over 80 per cent - they have suffered more casualties. In the final six months of 2012, 463 members of Afghan National Army (ANA) were killed.[22]


19. Camp Bastion is one of ISAF's main sites in southern Afghanistan and acts as the main UK operating base in Helmand. The base is the size of Reading and has a perimeter fence of some 40 kilometres long and is difficult to defend. In September 2012, there was a significant and well-co-ordinated attack on Camp Bastion. Fifteen insurgents, dressed in US Army uniforms and armed with automatic rifles and grenade launchers penetrated the perimeter of the base near the main runway. They attacked coalition fixed and rotary wing aircraft, destroying six US Harrier jets. Coalition forces including the RAF regiment responded to the incident and engaged the insurgents, killing 14 of them and wounding one. Two US marines were killed and 13 coalition personnel were wounded. We were concerned about the implications of this attack for the security of UK Forces. General Capewell, Commander Joint Forces, said that security had been improved since the attack:

    I would describe it as a tactical setback. [...] It is now absolutely secure in terms of the redoubled efforts that have been put into trying to get to grips with where the gaps are. I am sure in my own mind that although the enemy got lucky on this occasion, it is no more than that. This is not a strategic threat in any sense.[23]

20. We note that civilian casualties have fallen for the first time in six years although they still remain high. We also recognise that enemy initiated attacks are now occurring in less populated areas. However, we remain concerned that, as withdrawal and the final handover to the ANSF draws near, violence levels have not fallen. The lack of progress in reducing violence does not auger well for improving security and economic development on a long-term sustainable basis.

Sustainability of the ANSF

21. A critical component for a successful handover of security to the Afghan Government will be well trained and prepared Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). The ANSF is made up of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP). There are five main pillars of the ANP:

  The Afghan Uniform Police provides community policing, traffic policing and the fire service;

  The Afghan National Civil Order Police provides civil order patrols, an anti-riot capability and a crisis or counter-terror response capability within urban areas;

  The Afghan Border Police facilitates freedom of movement, encourages the development of commerce, prevents illegal border crossings and polices airport points of entry;

  The Afghan Anti-Crime Police provides specialist police expertise, counter-terrorism, counternarcotics, Major Crime Task Force (governance and anti-corruption) and forensics; and

  The Ministry of the Interior provides enablers such as logistics, medical, training and education.[24]


22. Considerable progress has been made in training the ANSF since the introduction of the NATO Training Mission in November 2009. The ANSF is now at full strength with a force of 352,000 personnel although not all of these personnel are yet trained. Dame Mariot Leslie, UK Permanent Representative to NATO, told us:

    [...] we are at full strength for that 352,000. There is still a training deficit, so they have been stood up, but they are not all fully trained. There will be some attrition over time and there will need to be further recruitment. There is still a task to bring that force to full surge capacity, although the numbers are there now.[25]


23. The numbers of recruits leaving the ANA (referred to as "attrition rates") remain high, peaking at 3.5 per cent per month in October and November 2012 against a target of 1.4 per cent. The MoD told us that attrition rates were now falling.[26]

24. It is widely accepted that the composition of the ANSF should, as far as possible, reflect the composition of Afghan society. Southern Pashtuns are still underrepresented in both the ANA and the Afghan National Police (ANP). The MoD told us that the Afghan MoD was trying to recruit Southern Pashtuns into the Afghan National Army (ANA), encouraging recruiting centres and provincial councils to identify suitable recruits. The ANA recruited 756 Southern Pashtuns in the first quarter of 2012, 3.7 per cent of the total recruits against a target of four per cent.[27] This remains a low target given that Pashtuns from the three Southern provinces are estimated to be a third of the population.


25. General Barrons, Deputy Chief of Defence Staff (Military Strategy and Operations), said that the police force had made less progress in developing its capabilities and was a more difficult challenge than the Army. UK trainers were working with the leadership of the police service to develop the ANP into something nearer a normal police constabulary rather than a protection force. He further said:

    [...] we have spent some time training on the ground, to a very basic level, Afghan policemen to do what are effectively security tasks through a combination of patrolling with Royal Military Police and other service police assistance. [...] That responsibility falls to the regional and national training facilities that are turning out policemen. Now, there is quite a concerted, but long-term plan to improve the recruiting, vetting, training, leadership and support of the police—both Afghan national police and their national counterpart, the Afghan national civil order police, which are higher calibre organisations.[28]

Mr Patang, Minister of the Interior, reported to us that the ANP had made significant progress in the last year and that they were very grateful for international assistance in achieving this and he hoped that this would continue after 2014.


26. In addition, in July 2010, the Afghan Government announced a new initiative agreed with General Petraeus, the then US Commander of ISAF, to train and recruit some 10,000 personnel as local community police separate from the ANP. Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, the Secretary of State for Defence, said that the Afghan Local Police has provided a valuable contribution. He added:

    On Monday, I had a very interesting discussion with the Minister of the Interior about the long-term future of the ALP, and he does envisage it being incorporated over time into mainstream Afghan police, and coming under its direct command. This is seen as a force alongside the police, which will gradually integrate into the formal police structure.[29]


27. Vincent Devine, MoD Director Operational Policy, said that the Afghan population had increasing confidence in the ANSF:

    [...] I thought that the figures that came out of the Asia Foundation survey, which is a pretty widely respected document, were really rather encouraging in this area.

    More than four out of five respondents agreed that the ANP is honest and fair with the Afghan people: The figure was around 85%. 81% believed that the ANP helped improve security; 75% said that the ANP is efficient in arresting those who have committed crimes and bringing them to justice; 93% agree that the ANA—the national army—is honest and fair with the Afghan people and 87% think that the ANA is helping to improve security. [...][30]

28. Despite reports of increased confidence in the ANSF, there is evidence of a continuing problem with corruption in the ANP.[31] When asked about corruption in the ANSF, Brigadier Stevenson, NATO Afghan National Training, said:

    [...] corruption means different things to different people. What I saw in Afghanistan was an absolute determination, albeit from the middle and more senior ranking Afghans that I met, both in the army and the police, first, to understand what was considered unacceptable behaviour and to eradicate it from their ranks, if it existed.[32]

Brigadier Chalmers added that the situation had improved since his first tour in Afghanistan in 2008:

    [...] I reflect on the police I saw then and the police I saw this summer. It is quite a stark difference. As you say, there is a level of pragmatism in Afghan society. The word "corruption" [...] for them it is multi-layered. It is the tolerable or intolerable nature of it. Back in 2008 there was a lot of intolerable corruption that was really affecting the will of the people.

    [...] They are increasingly dealing with it [corruption] themselves. That means they are policing their own policemen [...]. That is not to say that it is corruption-free; it is not by our standards. However, in terms of what is tolerable to the local population it is much more in balance than it was several years ago.[33]


29. During our visit to Afghanistan, General Carter, Deputy Commander ISAF Forces, told us that the challenge for the transfer of responsibility for security in Helmand was that the ANSF did not have the necessary enablers. The capabilities and assets that facilitate and support operations are known as enablers. General Sherin Shah, Commander of the ANA's 3/215 Brigade, also told us that the ANA lacked the necessary enablers such as intelligence gathering and analysis, medical care, air support and counter IED equipment, having lost 16 men in a week to IEDs, and mine detectors, and would continue to need help beyond 2014. He specified training, particularly in specialist fields. He also referred to vehicles, saying that he had 4,500 troops in his brigade but could not move them. We had concerns as to whether the ANSF would be able to support itself with training, logistics, and in providing medical care, air support and intelligence. We asked Dame Mariot Leslie whether the ANSF would have the required enablers when they took over full responsibility for security at the end of 2014. She replied:

    [...] They do not have all of those now, and some of those higher end of the scale capabilities are being provided for them by ISAF. We have until the end of 2014 to gradually shift the training programme so that, increasingly, they are able to do more and more of their own enabling. The training programme is shifting more and more from general infantry skills to skills in logistics, medical evacuation, planning and some of the higher command skills, moving more and more upstream towards the NCO cadre and upwards into the higher command cadres.[34]

General Barrons said:

    [...] there are other bits of the ANSF—for example, their aviators, medics, communicators and logisticians—where they are behind in the development process, so they will need more help for longer, but much of that help is not in the eye of the fight, as it were.[35]

Training, logistics, medical care, air support and intelligence are dealt with separately below.


30. We asked the MoD if the ANSF would be able to direct and carry out their own training after 2014. General Capewell and Brigadier Stevenson assured us that they would. In particular, Brigadier Stevenson said

    [...] within NTM-A [NATO Training Mission - Afghanistan] we were involved in training institution transition. [...] by the end of 2014 at the latest—and there was an intent to bring this forward, possibly by as much as a year—the aim was that the Afghans would be running their own training institutions. That would be training ranging from the initial nine-week package to train a basic warrior through to what we call branch schools, which are more specific training—for example, signals training, engineer training and so on, less some of the more sophisticated areas within that—through to what we would call command and staff training in the Afghan national defence university.

    By the end of 2014, the aim is that the Afghans are in charge and are running all of those. That is not to say that there will not be embedded staff from other nations. [...][36]

31. On training the ANP, Brigadier Chalmers said:

    [...] For example, at the police training centre outside Lashkar Gah, we are seeing that the course instruction is now predominantly given by instructors allocated and designated by the Ministry of Interior who are posted there, which is a huge change from the last couple of years. [...]

    [...] a lot of the on-the-job training and other elements are done with a lot of mentorship and advising by the teams to build up that experience base. Of course, we have been at this for quite some time, [...] [which] means you now have young officers who have been engaged for seven-plus years. They have actually been gaining a strength and experience bank over that time.[37]


32. The MoD told us that the ANA relied heavily on ISAF and contractors for some aspects of logistic support. The sourcing and distribution of stores and equipment from national level depots to the regional logistic support commands remains the most significant challenge. Improving logistics capability had been a priority for 2012:

    Deputy Commander (Army) within NTM-A provides the technical training for the ANA logisticians. This training will enable them to organise and run their own logistics within the fielded force. The training is undertaken at the ANA CSS [Combat Service Support] School in Kabul, which is mentored by German and French advisors. The CSS School is currently rated as still requiring embedded mentors. However, progress is good and it is projected to transition to Afghan control on 1 June 2014.[38]

The Secretary of State said:

    [...] Logistics is an area where they are improving. It is very clear on the ground that some harsh lessons have been learned about logistics. That is an area where ISAF is adopting the approach of letting them experience the consequences of poor logistics in order to enhance their thirst for better logistic planning. My understanding is that that is an area where there has been significant improvement.[39]

Medical care

33. Following 30 years of war, much of Afghanistan's medical infrastructure has been destroyed and medical education largely non-existent. Much medical care has been provided by ISAF.[40] On our visit to Afghanistan, we were told that the best general hospital in Helmand was near Lashkar Gah and was the joint responsibility of the Ministries of Defence, the Interior and Health. General Sharin Shah said that the ANA lacked qualified doctors and a proper hospital. The Joint Force Support group, ISAF, told us that there was no plan for an advanced surgical hospital in Helmand but that wounded personnel would be medevaced via land vehicle to Herat or Kabul after damage control help.

34. A plan to improve the medical care within the ANSF was introduced in November 2011. We were told that the capacity of the ANSF to provide medical care was improving though it would not reach the standards of medical care provided by the US or UK.[41] The Secretary of State said:

    Medical is the other one [...] where there is a developed plan to build an ANSF medical service that is appropriate to Afghan conditions. That will provide a proper level of medical support, which is not dependent on western-style medical enablement.[42]

35. We saw in Kabul an excellent example of providing medical care appropriate to Afghan circumstances in the Red Cross rehabilitation centre in Kabul where prosthetics are built to suit the individual by staff who were themselves disabled. We were disappointed to hear that no Afghan Minister had visited the centre, despite its being so accessible.

Air support including helicopters

36. We asked whether the ANSF would have sufficient air support after 2014 including helicopters, Dame Mariot Leslie said:

    They now have some attack helicopters. I think we need to distinguish between what NATO is doing, which is the training programme, and a number of bilateral programmes, particularly the American one, working with the Afghans on equipment. Obviously, the end of 2014 is still some time away, and we will need to take stock again, but the intention is that they will have a much greater capability, in terms of both skills and equipment, to do their own enabling by then.[43]

Brigadier Stevenson added:  

    You are quite right to highlight the Afghan air force as the element of the ANSF that presents the greatest challenge; I think that is self-evident. It is in the public domain that the Afghan air force will not be anything like developed until 2017. So we are talking about 2014 principally for ground forces, army and police, but for the air force the date that we have acknowledged is 2017. That is not to say that it will be fully developed by then, but it is to acknowledge the challenge that any nation is faced with when developing an air force.[44]

Intelligence gathering

37. On intelligence gathering, the Secretary of State said:

    [...] ISAF is heavily dependent on electronic intelligence gathering; the ANSF will have much greater dependence on, but also much greater capability to deliver, human intelligence gathering; in consequence, it will operate in a different way. That does not mean it will be less effective; it just means it will operate in a different way.[45]

Overall sustainability of the ANSF

38. Dame Mariot Leslie said that the ANSF training programme was shifting increasingly from general infantry skills towards more of the enabling requirements for the force,[46] though General Barrons said that, in case of some enablers, "they will need more help for longer".[47] Nevertheless, Dame Mariot made it clear that planning for the future NATO mission did not envisage providing any of the enablers such as logistics, medical care and air support after the end of 2014 though some countries might consider doing so bilaterally.[48] General Barrons said that the international community was not yet prepared to have a debate about what to do if the ANSF was not self-standing by the end of 2014.[49]

39. General Barrons said that the ANSF would operate differently from ISAF and be less reliant on technology:

    The other key thing is that the Afghans will never operate as a mirror image of us. They function differently on the ground; they are much less reliant on technology; they are much more human intelligence-focused; and the standards that they require in terms of equipment and method of operating are slightly different. They will produce local solutions in the way that they operate that require less enablement than the ones that we have enjoyed as a foreign army.[50]

The Secretary of State said:

    [...] delivering to the Afghans the full panoply of enablers that ISAF routinely uses would not be efficacious as they would not able to maintain them, and it would encourage them to try to conduct their operations in a way that mimicked western concepts of operations, rather than adapt and adopt an approach that is more appropriate to their capabilities and their sustainable levels of equipment.[51]

40. If the ANSF is to provide security in Afghanistan and ensure that the insurgency does not gain control of areas in Afghanistan from 2015, it will need to be able to support itself fully. Whilst we recognise that the ANSF will operate differently from ISAF, it will still need to be properly trained and equipped to carry out the full range of military tasks required of them. We identified significant gaps in necessary ANSF capabilities such as the provision of logistics, helicopters and close air support, and medical care from 2015. Clearly the needs of the ANSF post 2014 will depend on the local political situation: for example, if there is consent on the part of local people, there is unlikely to be much need for extensive counter measures for IEDs, because insurgents will not be able to plant them. We are concerned that the international community is not seriously engaged with the assessment of the need for force enablers. For at least some period after the withdrawal of ISAF from the combat role, there will need to be a smooth transition from the international way of achieving effect to the new Afghan way. The MoD should press NATO for an early review of the ANSF to ascertain what more needs to be done before the end of 2014. We recommend that the MoD liaise with allies to identify the likely shortfalls in ANSF capabilities and investigate ways of meeting them. We were told that issues of corruption within the ANP continue to require attention. A trusted and reliable police force seen to be on the side of and not exploiting the local population is a basic requirement for building trust in a national government which may be seen as remote from communities.

Security where the ANSF has taken over responsibility

41. On 22 March 2011, President Karzai announced the first set of Afghan provinces and districts to start transition. The decision was based upon operational, political and economic considerations, drawing on the assessment and recommendation of the Afghan Government and NATO. President Karzai announced the second set of Afghan provinces, districts and cities for transition on 27 November 2011 and the third tranche on 13 May 2012. On 31 December 2012, the fourth tranche was announced with 87 per cent of the population living in areas where the ANSF is responsibility for security once the tranche is fully implemented.[52] The provinces, districts and cities covered by the four tranches are shown in the map below.

Afghanistan Transition Map for tranches 1 to 4

Source: ISAF[53]

42. Dame Mariot Leslie said that, when the final tranche is implemented in the middle of 2013, the ANSF would have lead responsibility for security in the whole of the country but they would still be supported by ISAF in some districts.[54] On progress towards transition, Mark Sedwill, Special Representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan and Director General South Asia, FCO, said:

    When I left Afghanistan in May 2011, less than 20% of operations were led by the Afghan national security forces. It is now over 80% and of the remaining 20%, half are co-led by them. That is a dramatic change in 18 months and demonstrates that the transition process—when we say it is making progress, that is real.[55]

43. During our visit to Afghanistan, we were told that ISAF was sometimes reluctant to do, what is often the most difficult thing of standing back and allowing the ANSF to make mistakes from which they would learn. We heard of growing confidence in the effectiveness of Afghan forces when they were encouraged to operate on their own. In Helmand, Brigadier Bruce, Commander Task Force Helmand, told us of an operation planned, rehearsed and carried out by the ANA with only minimal support from UK forces. We discovered that the only negative, apart from the loss of one soldier, had been the late involvement of the ANP, resulting from distrust between the forces. General Sherin Shah later confirmed that the ANA was ready to fight, indeed was already fighting, although they would need continuing help with maintenance and medical care beyond 2014.

44. We asked the MoD why UK Forces were still patrolling rather than letting the ANA try their strength. General Barrons said:

    [...] the answer is that we are patrolling a whole lot less, because as we hand over the leadership to the Afghan national security forces, they are taking the fight on themselves. As a rule of thumb, over the last 12 weeks, the number of attacks against the Afghan national security forces across Afghanistan has risen north of 150%. That reflects the fact that they are very firmly in the front as we begin to step back. There are some areas—the more difficult areas—where we will continue to take the lead for a little while yet, and there are other areas where, for our own force protection, we will always wish to have our hand on the ground. The area around Camp Bastion is an example of where, for our own reasons, we will need to be outside the wire.[56]

We further asked if it was possible to hand over responsibility to the ANSF more quickly. General Barrons said that any decision to accelerate should only be taken with the Afghans and when the ANSF were confident enough to stay with the fight and be resilient.[57]

45. The MoD and the FCO painted a very positive picture of the transition to the ANSF, particularly, progress on their ability to carry out operations but we would caution whether progress is sustainable once ISAF withdraws. However, the UK Armed Forces should be more robust in allowing the ANSF to test themselves in challenging circumstances.

Future of the ANSF

Future funding for and size of the ANSF

46. The international community has made a number of commitments to the future funding of the ANSF which are detailed in Box 3. The funding is calculated on the basis of funding 352,000 ANSF personnel until the end of 2015 with a reduced force of 228,500 thereafter.

Box 3: Future funding and force size of the ANSF[58]
ANSF Funding

    Following the NATO Chicago Summit there is now a credible funding plan in place to sustain the ANSF post-2014. The international community (excluding the US) has so far made pledges totalling around $1 billion a year towards a US request of $1.3 billion for the funding of the security forces. The UK has pledged £70 million[59]. The level of our funding will be contingent on ongoing agreement between the international community and the Afghans on their security requirements. UK funding will come from the cross-government Conflict Pool and will be reviewed each year.

    The UK's contribution will form part of a wider pool of some $4.1bn that the international community and the Afghans are putting together. As the Afghan economy and the revenues of the Afghan government grow, Afghanistan's yearly funding share of the ANSF will increase progressively from at least $500m in 2015, with the aim that it can assume, no later than 2024, full financial responsibility for its own security forces. In light of this, during the 'transformation decade' [2015-2025] we expect international donors will gradually reduce their financial contributions commensurate with the assumption by the Afghan Government of increasing financial responsibility.

    We expect other countries to finalise their contributions over the coming months. We will continue to work with our Afghan, NATO and US partners to ensure the ANSF are sustainable.
ANSF Future Force

    The ANSF are expected to remain at their 'surge' target of 352,000 until the end of 2015 before a conditions based reduction to an envisaged size of 228,500 (123,500 ANA, 97,000 ANP and 8,000 AAF). The reduction in size is based on a continuing degradation of the insurgents' capability and the financial realities of supporting the ANSF into the future. It will be increasingly an Afghan lead to structure the force within the available funding envelope and the quoted force figures are a guide only. The ISAF/NATO effort will increasingly shift from generating the force to refining ministerial capacity and developing its enablers such as logistic capability, air support and medical care.

    There will need to be a managed drawdown to reach the enduring level agreed between the Afghan Government and the international community at some point after 2014. The pace of that drawdown will be based on conditions on the ground. The costs of the enduring size of the ANSF are envisaged at $4.1 billion per annum.

Source: Ministry of Defence

47. We learnt that the ANSF is currently funded for 352,000 personnel and that this funding will fall after 2015 to funding for only 228,500 but that no plans had been made as to how that reduction was to be achieved. Dame Mariot Leslie said:

    It was announced at the Chicago summit and then ratified and confirmed at the Tokyo donors meeting this summer that the international community will produce something like $4.1 billion up to 2017 for the Afghan national security forces—that is the army, the air force and the various manifestations of the police.

    That was worked out on an indicative figure of 228,500. We know that there will be a gap between that and the higher figure—the surge figure—of 352,000, which we are at now, and which is due to come down towards 2017. How that is going to be funded has not been addressed, to be frank, but I think it will be addressed bilaterally between the Afghan Government and the donors.

    The international community has committed to $4.1 billion as an indicative figure. Of course, by then the Afghans will be in control of their own figures, so the funding has been committed subject to things like the delivery, the accountability, the good governance and all the other things that were discussed at Tokyo under a so-called Mutual Accountability framework. However, the actual numbers will be within the control of the Afghan Government at the time, in the light of what it perceives to be its needs and in dialogue with the international community. [60]


48. In briefings, we have been told that it was not clear that personnel in the ANSF would be able to remain a national and loyal force after 2014. In his evidence to the International Development Committee, Dr Gordon of LSE said:

    If you remove the funding, what you have got is a well trained militia. There are already signs, in parts of Helmand and elsewhere, in particular, of some of the security forces, particularly the ANA and some of the militia, realigning with some of the local power brokers; the old strongmen. I think it is that fragmentation along with tribal and patronage network lines that is the real concern.[61]

49. Robert Fox, defence journalist, was worried about where the loyalties of individuals in the ANSF would lie after 2014. He also said:

    We are not asking ourselves the blood questions enough. Where are their loyalties going to lie? I think they can forget our training overnight. I am very struck by how much we large up how important it is that we are giving them literacy and a bit of civics. It is really too thin. [...] if we think we are going to produce an army in three and a half years, which is what we are trying to pretend, given what goes on in that part of the world and given the friable and fragile loyalties, it is going to be a big ask. I am not saying that it is impossible, or that it is defeat already, but there are some very big questions, which are not in public debate now because the great spotlight has moved on.[62]

We asked Mark Sedwill what were the prospects of the ANSF remaining national and loyal to a future central Government:

    [...] The army is a national force, and it has been very careful to ensure that units are of mixed ethnicities and that there is a balance.

    In the officer corps of the army, that balance is not yet quite what we would like to see in, for example, bringing Pashtun young officers through. There is a genuine commitment in the Afghan national security forces to the nation. I have been struck by Afghanistan—if you think of other countries under this kind of pressure, with ethnic divisions and all the other sectarian divides, they have fallen apart. [...] we saw it happen there. But largely since the civil war, Afghanistan has held together. That is because they have been through it before. They know what happens to their country if they allow themselves to go that way. There is a genuine commitment to Afghanistan in the army. [...].[63]

50. We are concerned that the ANSF will reduce its strength by over a third on current plans based on the expectation that the insurgency will have been diminished. The Government should urge the international community to develop a contingency plan in case the level of the insurgency does not diminish.

51. It is, therefore, essential that the UK continues to maintain the momentum in ensuring that the ANSF has the capabilities and appropriate equipment to preserve and, indeed, improve security in the face of an insurgency at current levels.

52. If the ANSF is to remain a cohesive and loyal force, frontline troops and police will need to have confidence that they have access to the necessary support when engaged in battle with insurgents. This must include close air support and emergency medical care.

Future role of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan

53. Since the deadline of the end of 2014 for the end of combat operations was announced, there has been much speculation over the role that UK Armed Forces might play in Afghanistan thereafter. UK Armed Forces are capable of providing force enablers such as air support, training, supervision, intelligence or Special Forces operations. To date, however, the only confirmed role for the UK Armed Forces will be the support for future training, through the future Afghan National Army Officer Academy. The MoD described it as follows:

    The UK will provide approximately 90 mentoring staff in total to the academy. Around 30 other mentoring staff will be provided by coalition partners. UK military personnel will also be deployed to sustain and protect the UK mentoring staff. The coalition manpower commitment will diminish over time as the Afghans increasingly take over the lead for the academy. The academy is being built by the NATO Training Mission—Afghanistan and is due to open its doors to its first intake of students in 2013. Once fully operational it will accept three intakes of students per year; with an expected total of 1,350 male students and 150 female students trained annually. Specifically UK forces will be mentoring, assisting and advising Afghan instructors to run one year courses - based around the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst model - designed to teach Afghan National Army officers leadership and tactical skills.[64]

54. When asked about the future role of UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan, General Barrons said:

    The only things that I am sure about are that we are committed to being the leading light of the Afghan national army officer academy, which will start to train Afghan student officers next year and will deliver, when it is at full strength, about 1,300 male cadets and about 150 female cadets a year; we will provide very modest mentoring in Kabul. Anything more than that will be subject to a debate in NATO, not yet had, on what we as an alliance think we should do, and to a national debate about our appetite, and that political debate will occur over the next three or four months.[65]

55. While in Afghanistan we visited the part-built Academy (ANAOA). It is part of a complex of institutions, on the large site at Qargha, which, when complete, will comprise various training establishments each sponsored by a different partner. The Academy was being built for the ANA, who would also provide the trainers, the partner nations providing mentors. The first five mentors were already in place, and the first recruits were expected to begin training in September 2013.

56. The approvals process for recruits was slow, and recruitment staff were still developing the necessary skills. The sister academy, the US-run 'West Point' academy offering a four-year course (for a commitment of 15 years service), had received ten times more applicants than places were available, which our interlocutors took as a favourable omen for the ANAOA. The long-standing Turkish-run Military High School provided an object-lesson about the dangers of being influenced by irrelevant pressure to recruit unsuitable candidates (a problem General Karimi was determined to end) and a 'blind' recruitment process was in place to guard against the expected increasing political pressure to accept particular candidates.

57. On our visit to Afghanistan, General Karimi, Chief of the General Staff of the ANA, told us that they had set a target of 10 per cent of recruits to the officer academy to be women. There are currently some 400 women in the ANA; last year 45 women passed the test to join the officer academy. We identified a number of barriers to entry for women, not least the need to have permission from every male member of their family. We asked the Secretary of State if the target to recruit and train 150 women was too ambitious. He said:

    The 150 female students a year represent about 12% of the total throughput, which is a relatively small percentage. This will have been discussed and agreed with the Afghans—it is not something that we have done on our own [...][66]

General Barrons added:  

    The first point is that the total has been agreed with the Afghans, so it is a level of ambition that we are all comfortable with. Secondly, we might not get there at the first pass, but if we lowered our sights and said our ambition is not 150 but 100, we might have 60, whereas if we say it is 150, we might get 80. We want to try to pull this thing by the nose a little bit. Given that we are going to be doing this for a number of years, even if the first year does not hit 150, perhaps we will in year two or three.[67]

58. The premise behind the defence academy is that it is based on the British model of Sandhurst, for example, that there should be a strong cadre of non-commissioned officers doing the training. As there is no tradition of non-commissioned officers in Afghanistan, we asked the Secretary of State how successful using this model would be. He replied:

    I am not sure whether we are going to refer to them as non-commissioned officers or as trainers with some other description, but the principle of a dedicated group of Afghan individuals who are trained to be trainers of future cohorts of officer cadets will certainly be reflected in our approach. I understand it is also the approach that the Americans will take in the officer training academy that they are constructing, again based on the West Point model. I see no reason why that should not be successful. It may be that we need to be culturally sensitive: calling the trainers NCOs and expecting officers to defer to them may be difficult in the Afghan culture, in which case, let's call them something else.[68]

General Barrons added:

    [...] the Afghans do not have a tradition as established as our own, so they will not have many people who are as outstanding as our senior NCO instructors at Sandhurst, but they now have 12 years' experience of growing NCOs at the regional military training centres and an awful lot of operational experience. Given that the head of the army, General Karimi, who was trained at Sandhurst, understands the value of the model, and that the Afghans have seen our senior NCOs training their candacs for some time now, there is buy-in to the idea, and now we have to grow the people. The first Afghan national army academy sergeant-major has been appointed, so we have got the senior leadership in, and we have until September this year to grow a sufficient cadre of ANA senior NCO and warrant officer instructors to get us started.[69]

59. When asked how future trainers at the academy were going to be protected, the Secretary of State said that the protection arrangements had not been decided:

    First of all, the ability to protect whatever force we have on the ground will be absolutely paramount; we will not leave forces behind if we cannot adequately protect them. At the present time, the arrangements around the ANAOA [ANA Officer Academy] and the protection arrangements are not entirely resolved, because it is not yet clear the extent to which we will be working within an American compound, how much protection the Americans will provide, how much life support the Americans will provide, and what the Afghans will provide. We have a range of estimates for our total force number associated with the ANAOA, at the lowest end being the basic numbers required to provide the training and basic UK aspects of life support, but assuming that the majority of the force protection is provided by others; and, at the opposite end of the spectrum, a number based on an assumption that we have to provide our own force protection to the ANAOA. [...][70]

60. We asked the Secretary of State how personnel who remained behind after 2014 would be funded. He replied:

    Our expectation would be that anything related to the operation in Afghanistan would be funded from the Treasury reserve.[71]

61. We welcome the Government's commitment to the ANA Officer Academy, believing that it will give a powerful boost to the capability of the ANA and provide a very valuable long-term legacy. However many challenges remain, such as attracting the target number of women recruits and the provision of a suitable cadre of Afghan non-commissioned officers as trainers. The MoD should explain how it intends to tackle these and other challenges. It should also provide us with a description of how it will differ from other training institutes and training run by the USA, France and others.

62. In its response to this Report, the Government should confirm that the funding of personnel who remain behind after 2014 will be from the Treasury Reserve.

63. Protection of UK personnel working in the Academy now and post 2014 is vital. In response to this Report, the MoD should tell us how UK personnel at the Academy will be protected and how they will review protection in future. Such a review will require a risk assessment and the development of contingency plans to extract UK forces should the security situation deteriorate.

64. In its response to this Report, the Government should set out what roles other than training it envisages for the UK Armed Forces in Afghanistan.

8  Back

9 Back

10 Back

11 Back

12   Ev 98 Back

13   Ev 82 Back

14   Ev 117  Back

15   Ev 83  Back

16   Afghanistan Annual Report 2012 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan  Back

17   Afghanistan Annual Report 2012 Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan press release 19 February 2013 Back

18   Ev 117 Back

19   Q 142 Back

20   Q 141 Back

21   Afghanistan monthly progress report from DFID, FCO and the MoD, January 2013  Back

22   Ibid  Back

23  Q 145  Back

24   Defence Committee, , Operations in Afghanistan, Fourth Report of Session 2010-12, HC 554 Back

25   Q 165 Back

26   Ev 129-130  Back

27  Ev 96  Back

28   Q 356 Back

29   Q 357 Back

30   Q 259 Back

31   BBC documentary on corruption in the ANP in Helmand - Back

32   Q 183 Back

33   Q 185 Back

34   Q 161  Back

35   Q 269 Back

36   Q 183 Back

37   Q 174 Back

38   Ev 97 Back

39   Q348 Back

40   Ev 97  Back

41   Q 175 Back

42   Q 348 Back

43   Q 163 Back

44   Q 163 Back

45   Q 329 Back

46   Q 162 Back

47   Q 269 Back

48   Q 175 Back

49   Q 279 Back

50   Q 279 Back

51   Q 329 Back

52   ISAF - Back

53 Back

54   Q 158 Back

55   Q 233 Back

56   Q 268 Back

57   Q 272 Back

58   Ev 94 Back

59   The UK's contribution to the Afghan National Army Officer Academy will be in addition to this £70m. Back

60   Q 189 Back

61   International Development Committee, Afghanistan: Development progress and prospects after 2014, Sixth Report of Session 2012-13, HC 403, Ev 8, Q 17  Back

62   Q 19 Back

63   Q 308 Back

64   Ev 114 Back

65   Q 297 Back

66   Q 364 Back

67   Q 364  Back

68   Q 365 Back

69   Q 365 Back

70   Q 366 Back

71   Q 389 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2013
Prepared 10 April 2013