KABUL (Pajhwok): After their formation in 2002, Afghan security forces have shown potential signs of radicalisation, including insider attacks, dereliction of duty and desertion in their ranks, reveals a research study.
Sponsored by the Afghan Institute for Strategic Studies (AISS), the study examined and compared radicalisation trends among the ranks of Afghan National Police (ANP) across 11 provinces of Afghanistan.
As many as 1,498 uniformed rank-and-file personnel, 151 commissioned officers, and 8 religious leaders from among the ANP were surveyed on their views toward the political system, anti-government elements, democracy in light of Islamic values and human rights.
Although most of the security personnel accept centralised democratic governance, conservative views leaning toward extremist ideology persisted among the ranks of security force personnel in some provinces.
Reliance on local leaders from Kandahar and other conservative provinces for recruit recommendations encouraged parallel loyalties and ideologies grounded on nepotism and patronage relations, the paper claimed.
A large number of respondents continued to see the Presidential Palace as a legitimate source of authority, suggesting the alleviation of corruption was a first step toward building confidence and support of democratic governance.
More than 68% of those polled believe corruption exists among the the security forces and their political and military leadership, while more than 72% say armed resistance by the people was justified against those found to be corrupt.
While approximately 11% of service members joined the security forces with the aim of securing Afghanistan against Taliban influence, nearly 20% joined primarily for economic incentives. As a consequence, many maintain a hired-hand mentality rather than national consciousness.
A majority of green-on-blue incidents were of a personal nature rather than collective action, suggesting individual grievances, mental states and ideological beliefs were the underlying motivations.
Of those polled, 83% say armed resistance is justified against those who criticise Islam, while 76% of those from Paktia believe the Taliban are good religious leaders, suggesting ideological tension between the centre and the province.
More than 10% from both Paktia and Paktika believe that suicide attacks are a justified form of armed resistance. Similarly, respondents from Kunduz think democracy is not compatible with Islam. They are in favour of establishing a caliphate.
The study finds most are tolerant of ethnic and religious differences, increasingly over the course of their time in service, nearly 25% believe ethnic discrimination is a primary cause of conflict in Afghanistan.
Nearly half of those polled believe that international conventions on women and human rights are not necessarily in line with Islamic values, with most of those coming from Kunduz and Kandahar.
More than 80% of those from Kandahar approve of physically reprimanding women for disobeying Islamic law or disrespecting Afghan tradition and culture.
The Ministry of Interior was asked to address concerns over corruption within the ranks of the ANP and among its military and political leadership. Initiatives aimed at ending nepotism and other patronage links are first steps toward encouraging trust.
The Ministry of Health was urged to oversee the development of initiatives aimed at initial and ongoing evaluations of the psychological health of service members. Personal grievances among members of the security forces ultimately provoke violence among its ranks, including foreign forces, and potentially lead to defection or at least desertion.
With the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, desertion rate in 2014 increased again with up to 8.5% of ANA personnel failing to return to their posts. More worrying are desertions where service members take weapons and vehicles as they switch sides to ally with anti-coalition forces6.
In addition to insider attacks and desertion, outright dereliction of duty is also reported among the ranks of the ANDSF. In particular, turning a blind eye to insurgent activities and carrying out unsanctioned ceasefires between insurgents and service members were reported on a number of occasions.
In response to insider attacks, desertions and dereliction of duty, NATO officials took steps to address concerns with the introduction of ‘guardian angels’ to watch over international forces in mixed company, improving the vetting process as part of a counter-infiltration plan.
Dissatisfaction with corruption and nepotism seems to discourage continued loyalties and in fact promotes a strong sense for violent resistance, especially in Kandahar, Ghor, Helmand and Paktika.
Demonstrating a poor opinion of NATO and allied forces in country, sentiments of doubt exist in some provinces, such as in Kunduz (9.4%), Paktika (6.5%) and Ghor (6.5%) where nearly 10% of those polled believe the insurgency will not be defeated.
The Afghan government and politicians are seen as overly influenced by Western values (70%) and that such institutions only serve foreign interests (8.3%), both trust and confidence in international forces’ presence and success remains sparsely rationed.
Of those polled, more than 83% believe that armed resistance by the people against the government is justified if officials are seen as criticizing Islam. In particular, those from Kandahar claimed Muslims had an obligation to take action against those who break with Islamic law and that armed resistance is justified for such cause, despite the presence of security and defense personnel (76.4%).
Those from Kunduz and Nangarhar followed slightly behind with similar views. In fact a handful of those polled, largely from Paktika and Paktia, believe that suicide attacks are a justified means resistance for responding to criticisms against Islam.
Of those surveyed nearly 98% believe all religious sects and their practices should be respected. In fact, nearly 70% find it appropriated to marry outside one’s religious sect. Such estimates are particularly important as only 7.5% think the main reason for conflict is religious in origin, compared to those who say manipulation by foreign countries (57.9%) or ethnic issues (23.4%) are to blame.
More than 96% of respondents view the Afghan government as legitimate and Islamic, but more than three-thirds find the Taliban were not good religious leaders (76.6%) and that they did not follow true Islamic values (94.7%).