Formalizing the informal: historical lessons on local defense in counterinsurgency
Dearing, Matthew P.
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In September, Human Rights Watch released a scathing report on the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a paramilitary institution under control of the Minister of Interior and being trained by US Special Operations Forces in Afghanistan. The report highlighted accusations of violence, thievery, and corruption that plague the ALP and continue to raise questions of long-term viability as Afghanistan and the US prepare for the 2014 transition. As of September there were roughly 7,500 ALP spread throughout 46 districts, with an anticipated expansion to 30,000. Accusations of lawlessness and indiscriminate violence can be problematic for a weak Afghan state attempting to quell an insurgency and link rural populations with a fledgling government. This essay argues that a number of historical lessons from more violent and harsh counterinsurgencies should be kept in mind as the ALP program expands. These lessons suggest that paramilitary groups require: 1) supervision from state sponsors; 2) broad and deep cutting institutional reach; and 3) support from path dependent models.
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