Militarized versus Civilian Policing: Problems of Reforming the Afghan National Police

In PRIF Report No. 102 Cornelius Friesendorf and Jörg Krempel examine the international police aid in Afghanistan and explain why the shift from a civilian to a military police rebuilding is problematic.


The international community plans to hand over responsibility for security in Afghanistan to Afghan institutions by the year 2014. The quality of Afghan security forces is an important condition for the withdrawal of international military forces. Therefore, donor states not only massively invest in the training and equipment of the Afghan Army, but also of the Afghan National Police (ANP). The United States military is the main driver behind the strengthening of the Afghan police. The predominance of the Pentagon has led to a shift away from civilian police reform towards a militarized model of police-building. It is argued that militarization is necessary in order to allow Afghan police officers to defend themselves against armed non-state actors and to contribute to counter-insurgency efforts.


In PRIF Report No. 102 "Militarized versus Civilian Policing: Problems of Reforming the Afghan National Police" Cornelius Friesendorf and Jörg Krempel  refer to the problems of the dominance of military elements in building the ANP. It is not clear whether the militarization of the ANP has significantly improved the chances of survival for members of the Afghan police. What is certain is that militarization cannot solve the problem of the weak legitimacy of the Afghan state. There is still a lack of trust between the public and the police. Without possessing civilian policing skills, the Afghan police will not be able to prevent and fight crime, a precondition for gaining the trust of the people. Therefore, the authors argue for moving away from quick-fix approaches towards sustainable Security Sector Reform in Afghanistan, and to better balance military and civilian elements of police reform.


This PRIF Report was published as HSFK-Report 9/2010 "Militarisierung statt Bürgernähe: Das Missverhältnis beim Aufbau der afghanischen Polizei" in German.


The Report can be ordered at PRIF for EUR 6,- and is also available as free PDF download.