In an effort to extend security and governance beyond areas of Afghanistan where Coalition conventional forces were not operating the U.S. special operations forces organized the Afghan Local Police (ALP). The ALP is a locally-based village or community security force established in mid-2010. Initially the ALP came under the control of U.S. special operations forces [1] but later the ALP was transferred to the Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI).

Key districts (similar to counties in the U.S) were identified as locations to form up the ALP units (usually around 30-60 personnel). The U.S. SOF had a strict vetting process for recruits that included ‘buy in’ from the local village elders in addition to security checks conducted at the national level. Once the recruits were selected, they received training from U.S special operations teams – sometimes at the local level and other times at a regional location.

Meeting with members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP)
Meeting with members of the Afghan Local Police (ALP)

The ALP is a local defensive force of policemen with limited legal authority. While they can detain someone they do not have the full powers that a member of the Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) possesses. The ALP cannot conduct offensive operations unless insurgents are within their local area (district level).

The introduction of the ALP as a local defense force was not well-received by some observers in the international community. Concerns about ALP becoming just another militia controlled by warlords or powerbrokers independent from the Afghan government were expressed by many humanitarian organizations as well as some of the European nations. Some of those concerns were well-placed as reports of ‘unilateral ALP’ and militias calling themselves ALP emerged. [2]

The Afghan Local Police program was linked to the U.S. SOF Village Stability Operations (VSO) program. There were basically three parts of VSO that were implemented by U.S. SOF: security, development, and governance. U.S. SOF worked all three of these lines of effort to establish stability at the district level using a ‘bottom up’ approach. [3]

As time progressed and the ALP program matured – the management of the Afghan Local Police was turned over entirely to the Afghan Ministry of Interior. Supervision of the ALP units is exercised through the Afghan District Chiefs of Police and Provincial Chiefs of Police. Funding is provided by the United States to field up to 30,000 ALP. Current strength (mid-2016) is at about 29,000. There are tentative plans to increase this number to 45,000; however the U.S. military is waiting for the implementation of some specific reforms by the MoI in the management of the ALP before requesting the manning increase. [4]

The Afghan Local Police program, for the most part, has been a success. A significant factor of the success of this local defense force was the integration of ALP with the ‘bottom up’ approach of the VSO program. [5] The ability of special operations forces to organize, train, equip, assist, and advise an indigenous local defense force in the middle of a counterinsurgency environment was aptly demonstrated with the ALP program.

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[1] SOF working with the ALP included U.S. Army Special Forces, Marine Corps MARSOC, and U.S. Navy SEALs. These SOF teams came under the control of regional Special Operations Task Forces (SOTFs) based regionally around the country and the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force – Afghanistan (CJSOTF-A) at Bagram Air Field.
[2] ‘Unilateral ALP’ were ALP set up by the Ministry of Interior without the assistance (and sometimes without the knowledge) of U.S. SOF. Some Afghan militias (stood up by warlords or powerbrokers) called themselves ALP in an effort to seek legitimacy and funding.
[3] The ‘bottom up’ approach is explained in a book by Seth Jones entitled In the Graveyard of Empires: America’s War in Afghanistan, (2010). Jones worked at the Combined Forces Special Operations Component Command – Afghanistan (CFSOCC-A) for a year as an advisor and researcher.
[4] See pages 91-93 of Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan, Department of Defense, June 2016 for more on current strength and future funding.
[5] USAJFKSWCS, “Taking a Stand: Village Stability Operations and the Afghan Local Police”, Special Warfare Magazine, July-September 2011.

Top photo is an ALP candidate undergoing initial training in Kajran district, Daykundi province (Jan 2013). Photo by PO Matthew Leistikow, CJSOTF-A. Second photo is of a team meeting with ALP. From Special Warfare Magazine, July-September 2011.