For security sector reform (SSR) to succeed in Afghanistan, a holistic approach is needed that includes good governance, law enforcement and economic development. This paper evaluates and analyses the institutional limitations and weaknesses of the police and judicial sectors in Afghanistan. Unless SSR is instituted at the highest justice levels in Afghanistan, local judicial reform and anti-corruption measures will not succeed.
Insurgent control over the Afghan territory is increasing. Due to the government’s inability to provide services to citizens, many Afghans turn to the Taliban to support their activities. International donors, particularly the United States, are concerned that current levels of police training and reform undermine the broader strategy of counterinsurgency.
Afghanistan’s security sector is composed of police, army, justice, disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration programmes, and counter-narcotics operations. The army (with US support) has been re-established, but the police – the frontline response agency for terrorism – lack attention and support.
Afghanistan’s justice sector institutions exhibit the following weaknesses:
- Afghan police lack institutional, leadership capacity and coordination. A common approach to reform does not exist.
- Due to decades of war, the police administrative system – indeed, the entire government administrative system – has been destroyed. The police lack accountability and efficiency; they are one of the most corrupt institutions in the government.
- The Afghan judiciary – comprised of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General and the Supreme Court – is among the least developed and most corrupt institutions in the country. It lacks adequate support from the government, capacity and expertise. Training is woefully inadequate.
- The Government of Afghanistan (GoA) ranks among the five most corrupt countries in global corruption indexes. Responding to criticism, the GoA has established different mechanisms to curb corruption, including an office of oversight for implementation of an anti-corruption strategy.
- However, until incentive mechanisms are established and institutional reforms and effective leadership are in place, success of anti-corruption initiatives is not possible.
- To date, anti-corruption measures, such as strengthening civil societies, raising awareness of corruption and seeking behavioural change through religious education, have not been established.
Anti-corruption measures will not succeed without the following measures to provide a foundation for credible SSR:
- SSR needs a holistic approach that integrates good governance, law enforcement and economic development.
- The GoA needs to be empowered to lead sectoral reform initiatives.
- SSR needs a horizontal approach: if the Ministry of the Interior is not reformed, reforms cannot be introduced to the police. Similarly, local court reform is not possible without reforms in the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s and Chief Justice offices.