The Development and Creation of the Afghanistan National Army Territorial Forces

By Townsend, Maj Brad | Military Review, March/April 2019 | Go to article overview

The Development and Creation of the Afghanistan National Army Territorial Forces


Townsend, Maj Brad, Military Review


On 4 February 2018, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani signed a presidential decree establishing the Afghanistan National Army Territorial Forces (ANA-TF).1 This decree represented the culmination of seven months of joint planning between the Afghanistan Ministry of Defense (MOD) and planners within NATO's Resolute Support (RS) headquarters. Conceptualizing, planning, and executing the creation of the ANA-TF is a significant demonstration of the growing ability of the Afghan MOD to develop and execute complex logistical and structural change. The ANA-TF is the first new pillar of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) created since the beginning of the RS mission, which replaced the International Security Assistance Force on 1 January 2015. This article discusses the origins and early development of the ANATF, including the driving impetus behind establishing this force and the lessons learned from earlier programs that were applied to its creation.

In July 2017, Ghani discussed the possibility of creating a force modeled on the Indian Territorial Army with the commander of the NATO Resolute Support mission, Gen. John Nicholson. As a result of this meeting, Nicholson tasked his planning staff to explore the concept. A small joint planning team consisting of planners from the RS CJ5 Future Plans section and their counterparts in the Afghan MOD GSG5 was formed to investigate the possibilities inherent in the concept. Based on Ghani's inspiration for this project, this small team of planners began studying the Indian Territorial Forces model to determine its applicability to the unique culture, geography, and political situation in Afghanistan.

Indian Models

The team started by conducting a fact-finding visit to India in August 2017 to determine the suitability of the Indian Territorial Army, including all of its subelements, and other Indian military and paramilitary organizations, to serve as a model for a similar Afghan structure. The centerpiece of this visit was a working group hosted by the Indian Center for Land Warfare Studies and led by its director, Indian Lt. Gen. Rameshwar Roy, with senior representatives from across the Indian Army present. These included current and former senior leaders of the Indian Territorial Army, Assam Rifles, Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Kashmir Home and Hearth Battalions, and the Rashtriya Rifles. From these meetings, it quickly became apparent that an exact replica of the Indian Territorial Army structure would be a poor fit for Afghanistan's situation.

The Indian Territorial Army is a reserve force with short initial entry training built around the harvest season in rural areas and around the normal workweek in urban areas. Its duties are primarily to relieve the regular army from static security duties, act as a reserve force to the regular army, and assist in disaster relief; these had carryover potential to Afghanistan, but the structure was a poor fit. The Indian Territorial Army is formed in battalion-level structures with a small cadre of regular officers that includes the commander, personnel officer, and operations officer. This battalion is expected to become embodied (mobilized) and serve anywhere in the country depending on mission and need.

The planning team determined that while the overall mission set of the Indian Territorial Army had applicability to Afghanistan, the concept of a large, lightly trained reserve force was a poor fit for the immediate needs of a country struggling to establish lasting peace and security.

Two other organizations that the planning team found intriguing were the Assam Rifles and the Home and Hearth Battalions of the Territorial Army. The Assam Rifles are a large paramilitary force with more than sixty thousand personnel operating as a border security force and counterinsurgency force in North-East India's tribal regions.2 This force relies on a mixture of "sons of the soil" (locals) and recruits from across India with an officer cadre consisting entirely of regular army officers. …

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