Afghan security forces need urgent reforms

By Oxfam

Twenty leading international and Afghan organizations called on NATO and the Afghan government to agree to commitments to ensure Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are able to protect civilians and are held accountable if they commit abuses or violate international law. The organizations also warned of a possible rise in crime and insecurity in the country if there are no jobs for up to 120,000 troops due to be demobilized post 2014.

The organizations, including Oxfam, Human Rights Watch, the Norwegian Refugee Council, CIVIC, Christian Aid, and the Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security – Afghanistan, made the call as NATO states prepare for a summit in Chicago on May 20-2 to discuss their future role in Afghanistan. They said that despite some positive efforts by NATO to improve the quality of Afghan security forces, more action and safeguards are needed.

“Over the past decade, the lives of millions of Afghan men, women, and children have improved: 2.7 million girls go to school, women sit in parliament, Afghans can vote, and there is better access health services.

But these improvements are continually threatened by insecurity and weak rule of law. There are consistent reports of abuse by poorly trained and unaccountable Afghan security personnel. NATO governments have an obligation to ensure that the security forces they have helped create, fund, arm, and train do not commit abuses and can serve all Afghans. Security forces that are poorly trained, unaccountable, and unable to uphold law and order are bad for Afghans and bad for peace and security in the region,” said Anjo van Toorn, Oxfam’s Regional Manager for South Asia.

The organizations also warned that proposals to slash the size of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) post-2014 could result in up to 120,000 men with weapons training left unemployed throughout the country, risking even further the safety of Afghans.

The organizations called on NATO and the Afghan Government to:

  • Ensure that all civilian casualties and allegations of abuse by ANSF are effectively tracked and investigated by the Afghan government and prosecuted where appropriate. This requires an effective civilian casualty tracking unit to monitor casualties attributed to the ANSF and help reduce the number of Afghan’s harmed, as well as a complaints review body for all ANSF, which is well-publicized, easily accessible, transparent, and independent.
  • Ensure there is a fully-funded demobilization plan in place before any major Afghan troop cuts to address the high risk of increased crime and conflict.
  • Accelerate the recruitment of female security personnel, especially in the police, to ensure the security services are more accessible and responsive to women and girls.
  • Allocate additional resources to ensure improved ANSF vetting and expanded training on human rights, rule of law, and women's rights

“In Chicago, NATO must heed what is at stake for Afghans. Efforts to improve the conduct and accountability of the Afghan security forces must be urgently accelerated, and women are critical to this. The evidence is clear that women and girls are especially vulnerable to violence and insecurity: their voices must be heard and be part of the solution for a sustainable peace and prosperity’’ says Wazhma Frogh, Executive Director of Research Institute for Women, Peace and Security. ‘’What happens to women in the coming years, is key to the international community’s legacy in Afghanistan’’

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