Afghan National Security Forces

What It Will Take to Implement the ISAF Strategy

President Barack Obama’s new strategy for Afghanistan is critically dependent on the transfer of security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). His speech announcing this strategy called for the transfer to begin in mid-2011. However, creating the Afghan forces needed to bring security and stability to the region is a far more difficult challenge than many realize and poses major challenges that will endure long after 2011.

A successful effort to create effective Afghan forces, particularly forces that can largely replace the role of U.S. and allied forces, must overcome a legacy of more than eight years of critical failures in both force development and training, and in the broader course of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan. Such an effort must also be shaped as part of an integrated civil-military mission, and not treated simply as an exercise in generating more Afghan military and police forces. Success will be equally dependent on strategic patience. There is a significant probability that the ANSF will not be ready for any significant transfer of responsibility until well after 2011. Trying to expand Afghan forces too quickly, creating forces with inadequate force quality, and decoupling Afghan force development from efforts to deal with the broad weakness in Afghan governance and the Afghan justice system will lose the war. America’s politicians, policymakers, and military leaders must accept this reality—and persuade the Afghan government and our allies to act accordingly—or the mission in Afghanistan cannot succeed.

Anthony H. Cordesman

Anthony H. Cordesman

Former Emeritus Chair in Strategy

Jason Lemieux

Adam Mausner