Local knowledge can make new force more effective, but some say it needs more training and oversight.
The ALP has emerged in recent years from a range of village militias, and are separate from the regular national police. The 2010 Afghan Local Police initiative formalised the status and structure of these units and brought them under the authority of the interior ministry.
But despite some successes, concerns remain about lines of command, discipline and accountability.
In Sharana, the administrative centre of Paktika province in southeast Afghanistan, provincial council member Abdul Mubin Faqirzada said there were districts which NATO-led forces had never been able to secure despite their hi-tech weapons and equipment. But ALP units had succeeded.
“It’s a proven fact that local police have played a positive role in bringing peace and security to Paktika province,” Faqirzada said.
Tribal elder Abdul Manan agreed that the local police had played a helpful role in some parts of the province, but warned that there had also been complaints about their behaviour.
“The leadership of the local police is weak,” he explained. “Not only is it unable to properly train and monitor its forces, it doesn’t provide pay and provision them on time, either. That’s why they sometimes act inappropriately.”
Hazrat, a defence expert in Paktika, suggested that more stringent checks were needed during the ALP’s recruitment process. Officers also need to be clearly briefed about the duties and behaviour expected of them.
“Most of the time, these policemen go beyond their authority and responsibility. This then causes friction between them and the people,” he said.
In Logar, a province south of Kabul, officials stressed the importance of locally-based policing.
Local government chief Sayed Naim Sultan told the debate in Mohammad Agha district that the ALP’s performance was generally good across the country.
However, he did note that ALP members in some of Afghanistan’s northern provinces had been accused of crimes like extrajudicial killings, sexual abuse, theft, and land appropriation.
Muhibullah Saleh, a member of Logar provincial council, said that it was vital for local communities and the ALP to work together to ensure security. He argued that villagers were often better able to keep their villages safe than the security forces.
Matiullah Sadeq, the police chief in Mohammad Agha district, praised the performance of the ALP paramilitaries there, saying they had proved vastly more effective than their counterparts in other parts of Logar.
“If the local police received the same supplies and equipment as national police, they would be really effective at ensuring security,” he added.
According to the Afghan interior ministry, there are 35,000 ALP members deployed across 108 districts in 27 of the country’s 34 provinces. In some areas without ALP forces, officials have been calling for the scheme to be introduced.
Mohammad Yunus Zadran, the local government chief in Mandozai district in Khost, a southeastern province said central government had not rolled out the ALP scheme in his area because Afghan special forces used to be stationed there.
He called for ALP units to be brought into the area so as to lower the crime rate and increase stability.