This article focuses on the emergence and evolution of the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a pro-government militia supported by the US military in Wardak Province. The ALP and its previous incarnations have been justified, invoking notions of ‘local solutions’ and ‘cost-effectiveness’, as a politically convenient and culturally appropriate measure to supplement broader efforts to counter the insurgency and build up the regular forces. Inspired by the tribal policing concept of arbaki, ALP was envisaged as a short-term local defence force. But the programme has been controversial, and its impact in improving security questionable. In analysing the contestations between different actors involved in the programme, the article demonstrates that the US military’s attempt to resuscitate ‘age-old traditions’ of self-protection proved difficult to realize and produced unforeseen and largely deleterious outcomes. It concludes that far from reflecting the needs of local villagers, ALP was a top-down imposition whose objectives were much narrower than the purported aim of protecting the local population in Wardak.

Aziz Hakimi

Affiliated Senior Researcher