By Abdullah Qazi
Last updated: March 13, 2018

According to the Constitution of Afghanistan, the defense of the country is the responsibility of all citizens of Afghanistan. Also, according to the Constitution, defending Afghanistan’s independence, national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and ensuring the security and defense capability of the country, are the basic duties of the state.


Ministry of Defense

Ministry of Interior

The security of Afghanistan is managed primarily by the Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Interior.  The Afghan Armed Forces or Military, which consists of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is under the control of the Ministry of Defense, and the Afghan National Police (ANP) is under the control of the Ministry of Interior.  The ANA, AAF, and ANP make up the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF).

Afghanistan also has an intelligence agency, called the National Directorate of Security (NDS).  The head of both ministries as well as the NDS are appointed by the President of Afghanistan, with approval from the Lower House of the Parliament (Wolesi Jirga).  Similar to the United States of America, the President of Afghanistan is the Commander-in-Chief. The legal minimum age for voluntary military service is 18; there is no compulsory enlistment (1). Less than 1% of Afghanistan’s GDP (gross domestic product) goes to the military.

Even though, the transfer of security responsibilities to the Afghan government were officially completed in 2014, assistance still comes from the United States and NATO; both have numerous bases in Afghanistan. The largest U.S base in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base, is located in Parwan province. There are also private militias still present in Afghanistan, despite a major disarmament push by the United States and Afghan government.

Breakdown of Afghanistan’s Security Forces

Afghan National Army (ANA)

ANA Emblem

The current ANA, which is responsible for land warfare, was established with the help of the United States and its allies, in fact, they are still involved in the training process. The ANA size is estimated to be 174,000+ (2).  The ANA is mainly made of of 6 regional corps (201st, 203rd, 205th, 207th, 209th, and 215th), and the 111th Capital Division which has the security responsibility for Kabul.


ANA Reporting Structure


In November 2017, the Afghan government announced the transition of the Afghan Border Police (ABP) and the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF), which fell under the Ministry of Interior’s Afghan National Police (ANP), to the Ministry of Defense. According to the government, the move was made in order to enhance coordination between the security forces. The APPF was officially handed over on March 21, 2018.  The ABP was created to protect the borders and provides security at international airports, and the APPF guards important infrastructures, as well as international projects.

Afghanistan Air Force (AAF)

AAF Emblem

The AAF is used for aerial attack missions across Afghanistan. It is also used for logistics, humanitarian relief efforts, and return of human remains. Latest personnel size is estimated to be less than 8000 (2). It is divided into 4 wings: Kabul, Kandahar, Shindand, and Mazar-e Shariff.

Afghan National Police (ANP)

The ANP  is the law enforcement agency of the country. It currently participates in fighting anti-government militants, such as the Taliban, however, the long term goal is to have it transition into a traditional police force.  Besides fighting anti-government militants, the ANP provides general security, maintains civil order, prevents smuggling of weapons, cultural/historical relics, as well as drugs, and detain criminals before being handed over to the judicial system. Latest estimates have the personnel size at 148,700+ (2). The most recent structure of the ANP has 3 pillars and 2 sub-pillars. It used to be 4 pillars and 3 sub-pillars, but in November 2017, the Afghan government announced that the pillar ABP and sub-pillar APPF will be transitioned to the Ministry of Defense. The government announced that the move was made in order to enhance coordination between the security forces. The APPF was officially handed over on March 21, 2018.


  • Afghan Uniform Police (AUP) – largest and primary police force – consists of traffic police, fire and rescue, and provincial police headquarters in each province.
  • Afghan National Civil Order Police (ANCOP) – prevents civil unrest, and fights against insurgent activities.
  • Afghan Anti-Crime Police (AACP) – specialists that provide expertise in criminal investigations, forensics, as well as counterterrorism.


  • Afghan Local Police (ALP) – provides security in the villages and rural areas.
  • Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) – lead pillar for counter-narcotics efforts in the country – units are located in every province.

National Directorate of Security (NDS)

NDS logo

The NDS (Riyaasat-e Amniyat-e Milli) is the intelligence agency that deals with both domestic and foreign matters. It is the successor to KHAD (Khadamat-e Aetla’at-e Dawlati).  The head of NDS reports directly to the President of Afghanistan.  Personnel size and budget are classified.



Cited Sources

  1. CIA World Factbook, accessed on 13MARCH2018
  2. Enhancing Security in Afghanistan, Report to Congress, June 2017