Mangal Tribal Police

Found a link at Old Blue’s to [My] State Failure Blog‘s discussion of traditional Pashtun law enforcement, which links to  Tribal Security System (Arbakai) in Southeast Afghanistan


The Arbakai have also been involved in counter-insurgency. In late 2006 the Mangal tribe in Loya Paktia made the decision to punish those who tried to conduct insurgency activities in their region. They were unique in their approach. In the south-eastern region most tribes were confused about the situation in which they found themselves. They could not take a clear position about insurgents and insurgent activities as the relationship between insurgency and the ‘war on terror’ was a new issue. Tribal leaders had problems analysing it. Insurgency will only be fought if it is recognised as a shared threat to the tribes.


The Mangal tribe declared that any person who conducts insurgency related activities would be banished and his house would be burnt. Thus, the prevention of insurgency was added to the responsibilities of the Arbakai in areas where the Mangal tribe lived and they took this seriously. For example, in the early months of 2007 a person was attempting to place an improvised explosive device intended to blast police vehicles passing through the Musa Khil District of Khost Province. The IED exploded as it was being installed and the insurgent himself was killed. The Jirga still implemented its decision. They burnt the dead man’s house and they asked his family to leave the area of the Mangal tribe. The Mangal Jirga also passed a decision to prohibit poppy cultivation, promising to punish those who violated the ban by burning their houses. This was a preventive measure as the southeast region is not a poppy growing region.

I’ve blogged a lot on the arbakai since Gordon Brown introduced me to them last year. The U. S., NATO, ISAF, Coalition and Karzai regime are all fighting Armed Oppositional Groups who are 90-95% ethnic Pashtun. The Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek citizens of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan are mostly Government Supporters, and those who are Uncommitted are not particularly troublesome, yet. They will get troublesome if the Government doesn’t start demonstrating some competence. Pashtuns are the problem. Pashtuns are going to be the solution.  More Pashtun feet in boots  (or sandals or barefoot) on the ground fighting miscreants instead of being miscreants is our ticket out of there. 

We have tried creating a Regular Afghan National Army, with modest success.  Still not enough of them, and very few kandaks  are capable of independent operations. 

We have tried creating a Regular Afghan National Police, with very modest success.  So far as has been strategically communicated to me, we haven’t created an Afghan National Judiciary or Corps of Honest District Attorneys, so even if we could create the politically correct, multicultural Royal Afghan Mounted Police we think we want to extend the writ of Kabul to places it has never run before, even if they always got their man that man would be back out on the street real quick.

Focused District Development  is taking too long.   We are running out of time and patience and national will.  Running everything out of Kabul doesn’t seem to be working so well, and disempowers people in the Provinces, Districts, and Villages whose help we need.  We need to re-introduce some federalism.  How did they police themselves before the Soviets invaded? 

The concept of Tribal Police  should not be this damn hard to understand.  They don’t have Reservations in Afghanistan, but they do have valleys and villages and districts where one khel dominates and its jirga is the local government.  These remote places have been running their own affairs with out much help from Kabul for a long time.  Old School traditional enforcers of the Pashtun Code could be holier than the Taliban in the eyes of many traditional Pashtuns.  These would be our natural allies.  The safest convoys in Afghanistan would be those escorted by traditional badragas,  and the money paid for badraga would favorably impact the local economy and considerably dampen tolerance for IED construction and emplacement in their Area of Responsibility.  

Now outside of these ethnically homogenous enclaves where jirgas have little influence, tribal police aren’t such a great idea.  Try them where they might work and try something else in other places.  But try something.

Other posts mentioning  arbakai:

Wardak Awakening

Good Guy Militias — ‘community based local defence forces’

Tribal Ruff Puffs

We will also work to increase the involvement of Afghan tribes.

One Man Human Terrain Teams for IW

Afghan tribes will not fit into a modern framework

Pashtun Irregulars Disbanded

CLC’s Good, Arbakai Bad

UPDATE 07012010: Atta-ur-Rehman’s My Cultural Values (Pukhtoonwali)



Filed under IW, The Forgotten War