The Counterinsurgency Training Center–Afghanistan (CTC-A) has established a COIN Training continuum for both the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP). Currently it is seeking final approval through Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) mechanisms to implement these continuums, build instructor capacity, and support COMISAF intent of building a COIN focused ANSF. The tenets, principles, and best practices of Counterinsurgency (COIN) and Community Policing (CP) are based in the ability of the force applying them to link with the population. In essence, the conduct of population-centric operations via COIN and CP across all battlefield and civil service functions is necessary. This paper will compare COIN and CP as very complimentary methods in theory and execution.
Over the past year, the CTC-A has expanded its training focus from the ANA to include the Afghan National Police (ANP). This has been done to accomplish a better overall Afghanistan Nation Security Forces (ANSF) link to the population and provide tools to boost Afghan population’s perception of the force, as well as equip the ANP with the same attitudes, skills and behaviors we have infused into over 30,000 ANA we’ve trained thus far. This approach is supported by the logical connection between the principles of Counterinsurgency and Community Policing (CP). Before we move forward, a quick definition of both is helpful:
Definition of COIN. Those military, paramilitary, political, economic, psychological, and civic actions taken by a government to defeat insurgency (JP 1-02). The definition of COIN includes the term “paramilitary” which is defined as a group of civilians organized in a military fashion, especially to operate in place of or assist regular army troops. By definition it is necessary to have both military and paramilitary forces working together when combating an insurgency. In Afghanistan the role of “paramilitary” has been assumed by both coalition forces and host nation police forces, with the plan of transitioning to solely to host nation paramilitary/police forces over time.
Definition of Community Policing. Community policing is a philosophy that promotes organizational strategies, which support the systematic use of partnerships and problem-solving techniques, to proactively address the immediate conditions that give rise to public safety issues such as crime, social disorder, and fear of crime (US Department of Justice). Community Policing has many variations across the world depending on societal norms and must be tailored to the community in which it is implemented to achieve effective change, with positive results; however, the above definition is generic enough to make the point and will suffice. Due to the link between the police and the people—as well as the imperative of military COIN forces to link with the people—it must be assumed that the military and policing efforts should be intrinsically linked via the training of the military COIN force in basic policing principles.
Comparing COIN and CP. The “ground level” of government, in any society, that has the closest connection with the population is its police force. This is due to the daily interaction an effective police force has with the population it serves. The police represent “Security Under the Rule of Law” (a COIN principle), and if effective, provide societal law and order. In a COIN campaign, building this force is imperative and proper training must be understood by coalition elements. Regardless of whether the police force is built in the style of Gendarmerie, Caribinieri, or a US-style community/state police force, they will represent the first link to governance and security via the perceptions of the people. Their effectiveness is paramount to maintaining long term stability —and therefore conducting successful COIN operations.
Typically, military forces are utilized in “policing roles” in some capacity, depending on their training and force disposition in the COIN environment. Those forces must understand the principles of COIN and CP and how to operate like a host nation police force, linking with the population to provide security until a host nation police force can assume the role. In any COIN environment, it is sometimes necessary to utilize a purely military approach, employing basic infantry skills to gain a foothold into a contested area. However, as time goes by, military forces that continue to use heavy-handed population resource control measures will wear on the strategic sympathies of the population. Therefore it is important that COIN forces both understand CP as they operate, and also simultaneously train host nation police forces to take over. Below is a chart showing the similarities between basic Community Policing principles and military COIN principles.
Community Policing Principles
Collaborative effort between police and citizens/other agencies
Unity of effort is essential; with civilians, coalition partners, and the host nation
Shared ownership, decision making, and accountability
Legitimacy is the main objective in COIN, reinforced by security under the rule of law
Sustained commitment to public safety
Counterinsurgents must prepare for, and communicate, a long-term commitment
Building trust between police and the community
Conduct population-centric operations in order to gain legitimacy
Provide skills and knowledge to support community initiatives
Political factors are primary; evaluate how operations strengthen the host nation
Ongoing commitment to develop proactive strategies and programs to address the underlying conditions that cause community problems
Elements must learn and adapt quickly in the COIN environment, consistently addressing the grievances of the population
Decentralize police services / operations / management
Empower COIN forces at the lowest levels
Addressing the root-cause of problems for long term solutions
Address grievances through population-centric operations
Commitment to developing new skills through training
Train host nation forces, and handover to them as soon as is practicable
Confronting and arresting criminal elements
Neutralize insurgents through intelligence driven operations
Unity of Effort. In order to achieve success in the COIN fight, unity of effort must be pursued and eventually achieved. All COIN elements (police/military) must have common goals and a defined mutually supporting end state for the host nation. As we know, in the Afghan COIN environment roles and responsibilities—especially regarding the defeat of guerrilla and insurgent elements—will cross, requiring collaboration based on common skill sets. As an example, the police will be called upon to conduct defensive operations on behalf of a village (military role) and the military will be called upon to conduct basic population and resource control measures such as checkpoints (police role). This fact demonstrates that both forces need to be equipped and trained to perform similar functions and behavior sets that build the confidence of the population.
CP and COIN must overlap in all elements of host nation education, training, and operations. It is the coalition’s responsibility to build that collaboration through training and educating the military and police forces with similar skills, where necessary, and by linking them operationally during the conduct of operations.
Conclusion. COIN is a complex subset of warfare that must address the conditions of the population, addressing their grievances and eventually eliminating the “root causes” for the insurgency. If this is done through unity of effort, long term success will be achieved. In Afghanistan, the primary “root cause” for insurgency is the perception of vulnerability of the population relative to their security needs. The ANSF is the force that will address this, ultimately determining the fate of the population’s perception. In order to do this, the ANSF (both ANA and ANP) must be trained in COIN and how it links with Community Policing. If this is achieved, then the ANA can eventually displace from an area and the ANP will maintain the daily linkages with the population, providing enduring security under the rule of law. Therefore, it is imperative that both COIN and CP principles be inculcated into all ANA and ANP training institutions and that coalition forces consistently reinforce them in all interactions with the ANSF.