Transition to Transformation
In November 2010, the member states of NATO meeting in
Lisbon announced that the process of transition to full Afghan responsibility
and leadership in some provinces and districts in Afghanistan was on track to begin
in early 2011.* This period of transition
would see Afghanistan take charge of its own security throughout the country.
At the end of 2011, representatives of the international
community and the Afghanistan Government assembled in Bonn where they made
mutual commitments to work together to make the transition a success. They understood
that the process of transition currently underway would come to a close by the
end of 2014 and usher in the 'Decade of Transformation'.**
In this part of the report, the committee recognises that, with
the assistance of donor countries such as Australia, Afghanistan has made considerable
progress in lifting the living standards of its people and stabilising its
government. The country, however, remains in need of substantial and continuing
aid to help it transition toward self-reliance. There are no doubts that the
challenges facing Afghanistan as it moves toward security and economic self-reliance
are daunting. In the following chapters, the committee looks at what needs to
be done to help Afghanistan ensure that the gains made to date are not lost and
that they provide a firm footing on which to secure continuing improvement. It
considers the effectiveness of Australia's aid program in light of the anticipated
security and fiscal challenges facing Afghanistan in the coming years.
* North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, Lisbon Summit
Declaration, 20 November 2010.
** The International Afghanistan Conference in
Bonn, 'Afghanistan and the International Community: From Transition to the
Transformation Decade', 5 December 2011.
Despite poverty, ill health, food shortages and poor education, Afghans
cite the lack of security as their 'greatest problem'.
Afghanistan's vision is to have a stable Islamic constitutional democracy at
peace with itself and its neighbours.
Indeed, the Government of Afghanistan places security as a priority goal and
has added 'enhance security' as its ninth global Millennium Development Goal
(MDG) in recognition of its critical role in achieving its other objectives.
In this chapter, the committee considers the security situation in
Afghanistan and its implications for social and economic development as the
country continues on its path toward self-reliance.
Transition to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF)
In Lisbon in November 2010, the nations contributing to ISAF announced the
phased transition of security responsibility from ISAF to the Afghan National
Security Forces (ANSF).
The following year in Bonn, the international community recognised the need for
it to mobilise and maintain its support for a sustainable ANSF after 2014. Participants
pledged to support the training, equipping, and financing of the ANSF and the development
of its capabilities beyond the transition period. They registered their
intention to continue funding on the understanding that over the coming years their
contribution would gradually decline in a manner commensurate with
Afghanistan’s needs and its increasing capacity to generate domestic revenue. The
international community saw a need for a defined, clear vision and for an
appropriately funded plan for the ANSF.
At the Chicago Summit in May 2012, NATO expressed confidence that, as
agreed in Lisbon, the phased transition of security responsibility from ISAF to
the ANSF was on track and would be completed by the end of 2014.
The objective was to secure substantial international financial funding in
order to sustain strong Afghan defence and police forces. The international
community agreed to contribute $4.1 billion per year from 2015 to ensure Afghan
security forces would have the resources required to assume full responsibility
for the country's security.
This pledge forms the revenue anchor which secures Afghanistan's long-term
stability. Australia gave its support.
Australia's contribution to Afghanistan's national security
Defence stated that Australia's fundamental goal in Afghanistan is to
prevent the country from 'again being used by terrorists to plan and train for
attacks on innocent civilians, including Australians, in our region and
beyond'. It explained that to achieve that objective, Australia, along with its
ISAF partners, was helping to stabilise the security situation in Afghanistan and
working with the ANSF so that it could take over responsibility for the
country's security by the end of 2014.
Australia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF mission and
has already contributed substantial funds to the transition of the security
In 2009, Australia pledged $200 million dollars to the Afghan National Army
Trust Fund and announced in May 2012 that it would contribute $100 million
annually for three years to help sustain the ANSF after 2014 following the
international troop withdrawal.
In October 2012, the Prime Minister informed Parliament that beyond
2014, Australia would continue to have a national interest in denying
international terrorism a safe haven in Afghanistan. It would still be in the
national interest to remain part of the broad international effort to support
Afghanistan and to ensure the Afghan Government remained an active partner.
The Prime Minister reported that there would be a new NATO-led mission after
2014—not for combat, but to train, advise and assist the ANSF. According to the
Prime Minister, Australia would make a contribution to this mission including
through the Afghan National Army Officer Academy'.
This contribution is not eligible to be classified as ODA.
Progress toward the transformation decade
By June 2012, the third tranche of the transition was underway with all
provincial capitals involved in the process. Eleven provinces had entered the
phased handover of security responsibilities in their entirety and 75 per cent
of the population were living in areas undergoing transition.
NATO expected that during 2013, the Afghan forces would be in the lead for
combat operations across the country. It stated:
As the Afghan forces step up, our own forces will step back
into a supporting role. This will allow us to gradually and responsibly draw
down our troops. But we will remain combat-ready until we have completed our
ISAF mission at the end of 2014.
At the beginning of 2013, President Karzai and President Obama expected
that the full transition of security responsibility to the ANSF would be
brought forward to the beginning of the northern spring, a few months earlier
than anticipated at the Chicago conference.
Transition in Uruzgan
The transition in Uruzgan started formally in July 2012 with the
expectation that it would be completed in 12 to 18 months.
Defence informed the committee that as Uruzgan province proceeded through
transition, and Australia's commitment became more nationally focused, it was
likely the proportion of Defence assistance would shift increasingly to
financial contributions to the development of the ANSF.
On 18 October 2012, the ADF assumed command of the Combined Team
Uruzgan, which had been under the command of the United States, with the
responsibility for operations within the province until 31 December 2014 or until
decided otherwise by ISAF.
In the Defence Minister's assessment, it was the appropriate time for Australia
to take the leadership role in Uruzgan to help ensure that the transition in
the province would be 'effected in a seamless way'.
In its new leadership capacity, Australia is largely responsible for assisting
the ANA's 4th brigade to assume full control and security responsibility for
the province. Defence informed the committee that Australia’s Mentoring Task
Force and Special Operations Task Group were working with ISAF and the Afghan
security forces to accomplish this task within the short 12-18 month period. 
By the end of 2012, all four of the ANSF 4th Kandaks in Uruzgan were
operating independently. This development allowed Australian forces to return from
patrol activities and mentoring and training in forward operating bases to Australia's
main multi-national base in Tarin Kowt. At the beginning of 2013, all advice,
assessment and analysis indicated that the transition would be complete in
Uruzgan Province by the end of 2013. According to the minister, Australia's
status or modus operandi in Uruzgan had changed from mentoring and training to
Security in Afghanistan
Even as the transition period got underway, military hostilities remained
one of Afghanistan's most serious concerns and a major constraint on development.
The UNHCR noted that despite measures pursued by international and national
bodies to promote security and stability, the political situation in
Afghanistan continued to be in flux. It described the state of affairs in
Afghanistan as 'volatile, with continuing conflict and random violence causing
further internal displacement'.
Indeed, armed conflict in Afghanistan incurred a greater human cost in
2011 than in previous years and marked the fifth consecutive year in which
UNAMA had recorded an increase in civilian casualties. It documented 3,021
civilian deaths in 2011 in Afghanistan, an increase of eight per cent over 2010
(2,790 civilian deaths) and a 25 per cent increase from 2009 (2,412
civilian deaths). Since 2007 and as at the beginning of 2012, 11,864 civilians
had been killed in the conflict.
In February 2012, UNAMA reported:
The record loss of the lives of Afghan children, women and
men resulted from changes in the tactics of Anti-Government Elements and changes
in the effects of tactics of parties to the conflict. Anti-Government Elements
used improvised explosive devices more frequently and more widely across the
country, conducted deadlier suicide attacks yielding greater numbers of
victims, and increased the unlawful and targeted killing of civilians. Civilian
deaths from aerial attacks by Pro-Government Forces increased in 2011, in spite
of a decrease in the number of aerial attacks and an overall decline in civilian
deaths attributed to Pro-Government Forces.
Although there was a reduction in civilian casualties from armed
conflict in 2012, the human cost remained high at 7,559 civilian casualties
causing the deaths of 2,754 civilians. The overall figure of civilian casualties
included 1,302 children—814 injured and 488 killed.
UNAMA documented the following breakdown of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2011
Number of civilian deaths
By anti-government elements
By pro-government forces
According to the UN mission, in 2011 conflict and insecurity displaced 185,632
Afghans, an increase of 45 per cent from 2010. It stated further:
Thousands more Afghans lost their livelihoods and property,
were denied access to justice, had their right to freedom of movement
restricted or taken away, and had their access to food, health care and
education compromised. The unremitting toll of civilian casualties coupled with
pervasive intimidation affected many civilians directly, and many more
indirectly, by fuelling uncertainty, tension and fear.
In 2012, the number of Afghan civilians newly displaced as a
result of the armed conflict reached 94,299.
Looking ahead, some Afghan experts and Afghans themselves have raised
doubts about the capacity of the ANSF to provide security and stability,
including the potential for members of the ANSF to shift alliances and the
danger of the Afghan Army fragmenting.
The ADB was of the view that security had been and would continue to be a major
issue in Afghanistan:
It is unlikely to improve quickly or greatly and could
significantly worsen after most of the foreign troops in the country complete
their scheduled withdrawal in 2014.
The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit thought it improbable that
conflict would end in the next few years. It noted that the Taliban were
entrenched and had demonstrated their capacity to endure.
The UN Secretary-General made a similar observation in September 2012:
Little has changed in the underlying dynamics to mitigate a
deep-seated cycle of conflict. Furthermore, a diminished international presence
will have a significant financial impact in many areas that, at least in the
short term, may even exacerbate predatory behaviour with a reduced flow of
money encouraging criminality.
The UNHCR concluded likewise:
Insecurity, political instability and economic and social
problems are likely to continue in 2012 and may increase as international
forces transfer security responsibilities to national partners.
In 2013, the UNHCR continued to report that the security situation in
Afghanistan was 'volatile' and obtaining humanitarian access to many areas
Even now with the presence of ISAF forces, parts of Afghanistan are
beyond the reach of development activities because of poor security.
For example, in Uruzgan province where Australia has command of the Combined
Team Uruzgan, the Taliban remain active.
Security in Uruzgan
The 2012 TLO Provincial Profile on Uruzgan noted that although the
Taliban may have been weakened and displaced from long-held areas, they were by
no means defeated in the province. It recorded that for some time the
insurgency had relied on the 'use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs),
targeted ambushes and assassinations over face-to-face combat'. Such tactics
had proven successful for the insurgents and remain an ever-present threat.
The TLO report cited four main sources of insecurity in the province:
- Taliban operations that target ANSF, especially the ANP, with IEDs
as the weapon of choice for the insurgency. They also man shadow checkpoints on
major roads, conduct ambushes or targeted assassinations of pro-government
leaders, and occasionally destroy government buildings, including schools and
telecommunication infrastructure. The insurgents’ soft warfare repertoire
includes threatening night letters and house visits to prominent elders.
- Taliban requests for food and shelter. Communities often give in
begrudgingly out of fear, only to be targeted by the ANSF and the international
military forces (IMF) who interpret such acts as active rather than coerced
assistance to the insurgents.
- In-fighting amongst the local communities themselves, either
along tribal/sub-tribal lines or in the form of blood feuds between
families—inter-tribal divisions are often exploited, splitting tribes into
pro-government and pro-insurgency camps. Leadership competitions can easily
morph into a broader competition between Taliban and ANSF/IMF.
- Uruzgan is a relatively isolated province with comparatively
little strategic importance to either the insurgency or the IMF. ANSF and IMF
continue to make advances in Uruzgan but it is unlikely that they will be able
to secure the entire province until contested areas in neighbouring provinces,
especially northern Helmand, the southern districts of Ghazni, and northern
Kandahar are brought under government control. The terrain in Uruzgan is simply
too difficult to hold the province against insurgents moving in from other
The report concluded that as eventful as the last 18 months were, '2012
and beyond will likely be even more eventful as powerbrokers and the insurgency
position themselves for the pending withdrawal of IMF in Uruzgan'.
A number of witnesses to the inquiry voiced similar concerns about the
security situation once the international troops withdraw. A particular worry
was that the government's control over more remote areas would shrink and that the
security situation in some provinces such as Uruzgan would deteriorate and become
Withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan will have an impact on
security; ex-combatants must be reintegrated, women’s rights protected and the
accountability of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is yet to be seen.
The International Community at present works on the assumption that the
government in Kabul will remain in place in one form or another, either through
power sharing or peace agreements. The fact that the former Taliban regime is
welcomed in some areas of the country needs to be considered from a security
Care Australia likewise held reservations about continuing conflict in
...as the security situation in Afghanistan becomes more
uncertain, gains made over the past decade are in jeopardy. The withdrawal of
international forces, handover of security responsibilities to Afghan forces,
and manoeuvring of power-holders ahead of the presidential elections in 2014
generate challenges to security and stability. Aid agency staff and the
communities we work with fear that increasing and new forms of conflict and
instability will emerge.
Professor Maley suggested that if the April 2014 elections were tainted by
the same kind of fraud that afflicted the 2009 election, the volatile environment
produced by the withdrawal of ISAF could 'well lead to a complete collapse
within the country'.
The year 2014 is not only the culmination point for the
so-called transition process in the security sphere, but it is also the
scheduled year for the next Afghan presidential election. This combination of
uncertainty in the security environment and intense political competition means
that the next phase in Afghanistan's life will be highly combustible.
He stated further that were the political process to unravel in
Afghanistan because of the fraudulent election then there was every risk that
the Taliban would come surging back.
Despite the continuing armed conflict, and the foreseeable worsening of
security conditions with the departure of international military forces, DFAT
assessed that Afghanistan would 'not regress to the terrible conditions of the
recent past.' In part this situation could be attributed to 'the tangible and
positive impact of international—including Australian—development assistance'.
It recognised that the political, security and development environment was
complex and evolving and would remain so past 2014 and further that forming
judgements on what may happen post 2014 was challenging.
According to DFAT, Afghanistan will be 'beset by security, governance and
development challenges for decades to come'.
Defence informed the committee that it expected the ANSF to be 'a
confident and capable force to provide security for the Afghan people'.
Even so, it quoted from the Prime Minister's statement to Parliament in October
...we know that as Afghan forces increasingly take the lead
through 2013, the Taliban will seek to test them. We know that not every valley
or village in Uruzgan or Afghanistan will be peaceful or free from insurgency.
The Prime Minister referred to the difficult days ahead.
Australian government agencies working in Afghanistan recognise that the
Afghan Government and the international community face significant obstacles
and challenges to restoring peace.
They accept the likelihood of continuing insecurity, political instability and economic
and social problems in Afghanistan during the transition and into the
While views differ on the future security situation in Afghanistan, all agree
that it is unpredictable and that the legacy of Afghanistan's long and
destructive history of political turbulence and of civil and military upheavals
will continue to present enormous difficulties for Afghans.
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