Small Wars Journal

Thai Village Security Lessons for Afghanistan

Tue, 08/03/2010 - 1:42pm

Thai Village Security Lessons for


by Jeff Moore


the full article

As General David Petraeus takes over military command in Afghanistan, a major

point of contention has arisen regarding village security forces -- are they to be,

or not to be?  Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his supporters are weary,

saying village security forces will become tools of warlords and undermine central

authority.  General Petraeus and his subordinates think they are valuable to

their COIN strategy.  A hyper-political debate, full of miss direction, is

likely to follow as both sides maneuver to control the issue.  Village security,

however, is essential to separating the people from insurgents, no matter what the

war.  Examples from Thailand's COIN successes can help show the way forward.


the full article

Jeff Moore is an assistant professor at National Defense University's Irregular

Warfare Department.  He is latter stage PhD candidate at the University of

Exeter. His subject is Thai COIN strategies and tactics and his dissertation analyzes

lessons learned from Thailand's past successful and current COIN campaigns to reveal

patterns on how the Thai strategize and execute counterinsurgency.  Moore's

work experience includes executive protection details and protective intelligence,

corporate security in Southeast Asia, and defense contracting for various government

entities, including the U.S. Army G-3 in the Pentagon.

About the Author(s)


Dayuhan is correct in being cautious RE: local forces, but this article specifically addressed village security teams, which were essentially village-specific police forces. Usually, pure village forces are endeared to their own village and the people in it since they have lived there for generations and would continue to live there for generations. Legacy and blood feud avoidance and these type things help cut down on corruption. More, the Thai system described here overlaid and boosted a traditional security structure - weak as it was - that had always been there.

The Philippines has been plagued by corrupt local forces (and scores of gangs and insurgent groups) that are essentially private armies of powerful local families reminiscent of bloody Shakespearean drama. This is substantially different from village security units.

Andal Ampatuans unit that massacred more than 50 civilians in November 2009 was not a village force - it was apparently made of rogue or ex-members of the Citizen Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and another outfit called Civilian Volunteer Organizations (CVOs). CAFGU is Philippine Army sponsored and fights in local settings, but its not village-centric. CVOs are Ministry of Interior authorized militias and are supposed to augment the Philippine National Police.

Thailand had, and still has, organizations just like these, but they are currently trained, paid, and commanded better than in decades past. To be sure, however, CAFGU, CVOs, and their Thai counterparts are not at all village security forces.

If left to their own devices, these type units can go wayward. If recruiting, training, indoctrination, pay, and leadership are effective, then any local force has the potential to succeed.

Thailand, of course, is not the only available basis for comparison. in the Philippines, village security forces have often emerged as little more than goon squads for local big men, and have frequently been involved in abusive and even criminal activity. hey have often exacerbated insurgency and rarely been effective against it.

How do you prevent village security from being employed to resolve inter-village feuds? Who decides who will compose the force? Who decides who will lead the force? To whom is the force accountable? Who acts as arbiter if the force is accused of abusive or criminal behaviour, favoring one faction at the expense of another?

All of these questions need practical answers...

David B (not verified)

Wed, 08/11/2010 - 12:30pm

How to read more by this author?
Having strong connections to Thailand,
I would be very interested to learn
what he has to say.
Thank you.

This article provides a number of useful insights.

The Kabul Conference set a target date of 2014 to hand over security to ANSF. Given the corruption and mostly ineffective Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP), the only sustainable source of security is US and ISAF forces. The June 2010 report from Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction found only 23 per cent of the ANA and 12 per cent of the ANP are capable of operating without ISAF supervision. What are the alternatives if ANSF are no where near ready by 2014?

Building up village security would seem a viable plan, already working in at least on Province, Wardak and in Panjshir valley.

With a history like Afghanistan, one can understand Karzai's nervousness. However, he may have no choice, unless the US and other international forces are planning to be in country for the next 10 years.

Joshua Froust reported on March 2009 on a few examples where earlier attempts to establish village security had not worked out well. He cites: Tariq, Mohammed Osman (2008). "Tribal Security System (Arbakai) in Southeast Afghanistan," Crisis States Research Center.

One of the criticisms was the people who were armed to provide village security were not necessarily aligned with the Afghan Government.

From my perspective this may always be the case in Afghanistan, armed or not,because of the corrupt and dysfunctional nature of GiRoA. They may not necessarily support the Taliban either. Most importantly, they may not support any trans-national extremists (the raison etre for being in Afghanistan)

Little wonder why they dont support the unelected, largely invisible and mostly corrupt Provincial Governors and sub-Governors who represent GiRoA.

We may need to accept we might not like how sustainable security is delivered in Afghanistan.