Monday, December 24, 2007

By Request

Anonymous has left a new comment on your post "COIN Operator":

Blue, I have couple of questions, if you don't mind giving a government lesson. What is the set up of their local government? Who do your ANP officers report to? And how does all of this work with a culture that is traditionally tribal? Thanks for writting such great posts, stay safe and keep up the good work.


My reply:

That's a great question, and one that I can't believe that I haven't addressed before; so here goes...

At the village level, the tribal system is alive and well. The villages are ruled by the elders. The village has a Shura, or council, that consists of the elders. The Shura meets on a regular basis to make decisions on village issues and at times to dispense justice concerning minor (and sometimes major) matters. The village also has a Malek, or mayor.

Each district also has a Shura. The district will also have a sub-governor. The Provincial Governor appoints the Sub-governor. The President, Hamid Karzai, appoints the Provincial Governors directly. This is sometimes a bone of contention among the locals who know about our system of representative government, as the top officials at the district and provincial level are appointed and not elected.

The Police are a separate entity. They are the Afghan National Police, and do not derive their authority from local government like our state and local police do at home. They are more like the German Polizei, true national police.

The ANP belong to the Ministry of Interior (MoI.) The Minister of the Interior is the top official. The ANP do not report to, nor do they rely upon the pleasure of the various governors. This was done to limit the ability of the governors and sub-governors to suborn the Police.

They still try, though. There are repeated attempts by governors and sub-governors to order the Police to do or not do various things. I have had experiences with several sub-governors who are just as crooked as the day is long. They attempt to co-opt the Police into supporting their shenanigans or coerce them into leaving their cronies alone.

The District Police Chiefs are usually Lieutenant Colonels, occasionally Majors or full Colonels. The Provincial Chief is a General, but this position is often filled with a full Colonel.

I hope that this gives an idea of the structure of local government in Afghanistan. There are many permutations of how these relationships manifest themselves, of course.

I have not, personally, seen any of the above positions held by a woman, although I believe that there is at least one female governor. I'll see if I can find out. It is certainly not the case in the provinces in which I've worked.


  1. In my work in Afghanistan and in traveling to and from there, I have met a lot of very sad characters working for one or other security company and some with the US Forces too. I am impressed with your very keen insight into the culture of the Afghan people. Your willingness to delve into the past mistakes by the US there is laudable. Your insight into the concept of integrating a more respectful approach into the war on terror is in my opinion a must.
    An AmericaN contractor once offered to work for me as guard (against the "sand niggers", his words). I told him I'd take an Afghan local any day whose trust I've gained (and respect, even as a woman).
    When will you write about the true menace to all our efforts there: corruption at all levels from government. I come across some reports which are mind numbing. So is the complete indifference to doing something about it by the US and ISAF countries. The amount of USAID money ending up in the pockets of government officials, including governors and mayors, is sickening.
    Couple that with the incredible poverty which remains and the insidious violent threats against them (and this is not just by the Taleban; the ex-Northern Alliance war and drug lords aren't ANY better with their enemies)and you have people, even friends of mine now, saying: give me the Taliban back. yes, we weren't free to go out, but at least me and my family were safe and we didn't have to bribe the local government.
    Some of the ANP I met could use some of your lessons. One of them has been smuggling very rare artefacts out of Ghazni and by night raids homes of those he doesn't like, that is when he's not kidnapping a new woman and forcing the father to have her married off to him.
    I'd be interested in finding out your impressions and insights on all of that from your perspective.

    Great blog.

  2. There is a female governor indeed. She's in Bomyan! Got to go there if you can. And if you have time, do it by car (make sure to take a few spare tires and other replacement gear)it's absolutely awesome. Then go to the lakes up North from there, Band-e-mir.
    And yes, I do think that the Afghan people are overall unusually beautiful people,even the men!

  3. Thanks so much for the info. Short of travelling to the country myself, you appear to be the best source of information about what is really happening over there. Thanks for taking the time to answer questions, and if there is anything that I can do for you, let me know, I visit here almost everyday.


  4. I see someone has already beat me to it, but yes, there is a woman governor. I believe she came into office a couple of years ago. There was a bleep, maybe, about it back here.

    If only our news was half as good as their propoganda...


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