Afghan Biographies

Afghan National Army Territorial Force’s (ANA-TF)

Name Afghan National Army Territorial Force’s (ANA-TF)
Ethnic backgr.
Date of birth
Function/Grade Background
History and Biodata

The establishment of the Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANA-TF) was announced by President Ashraf Ghani in April 2018. Careful consideration has gone into its design, with safeguards built in to try to avoid the pitfalls associated with previous locally-recruited forces, such as the Afghan Local Police (ALP).

The Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANA TF) (quwat-ha-ye manteqawi urdu-e milli-ye afghanistan) (also referred to in Persian as the ‘territorial army’ or urdu-e manteqawi) is a new local defence force currently being mobilised under the Ministry of Defence as part of the Afghan National Army (ANA). Each company (tolai) draws soldiers from a particular district but is led by officers from outside that district who are already serving in the regular ANA or who are in the ANA reserves. The aim is for the Territorial Force to eventually be 36,000 strong.

As to the ANA TF specifically, Ministry of Defence (MoD) sources said the idea for it came out of brainstorming between President Ghani and the then commander of NATO and United States forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson and was an attempt to address four key issues: 

  1. Supporting ANA forces at current levels is not financially sustainable in the long-run or by the government of Afghanistan.
  2. The need to free up regular ANA for offensive, not defensive/hold operations, something which, in turn, should mean Afghan special forces are less stretched.
  3. The need to address ANA recruitment gaps and retention issues, including the hope that Pashtuns from the south and east might be more willing to serve if they could stay in their home areas. 
  4. The need to leverage local knowledge and expertise. As one Ministry of Defence official put it, regular ANA “keep walking into traps that a normal villager wouldn’t.” 

Also at issue was continuing United States dissatisfaction with the Afghan Local Police (ALP), which is currently about 28,000 strong. The US is the sole funder of the ALP and has put significant pressure on it to reform and address allegations of abuse, misconduct and graft. Even so, in the face of continued US Congressional scrutiny and criticism from many sides, the US had been poised to cut funding to it by the end of 2017. Dislike of the ALP is not directly related to the ANA TF mobilisation, but a significant impetus seems to have been to channel US ALP funds into a more accountable and fit-for-purpose local force programme.


At first blush, the ANA TF and ALP models seem quite similar. Both are designed to mobilise men from a local community (neither recruit women, unlike the regular ANA and ANP) and develop them into a defensive, hold force. They are supposed to be auxiliary or adjunct forces only, with limited weaponry and a limited geographical remit permitting them to operate within their own communities. However, the ALP operates at village level, the ANA TF at district level; Territorial Force soldiers can be deployed anywhere within their district, making the force, it is hoped, less prone to very local capture. Restrictions are also more explicitly spelled out for the ANA TF (including that they may not independently undertake duties in enemy-controlled areas, carry out independent offensive manoeuvres, or undertake civilian policing or “dangerous operations, such as strikes, arrests and rescue operations” (for more detail, see the Annex), but were also implicitly part of the model for the ALP. 

One major change is that the ANA TF falls under Afghan National Army command rather than, as the ALP does, the Afghan National Police. The ANA has generally had far better command and control than the ANP with a more advanced (and functional) disciplinary and military justice system, to which the ANA TF would be fully subject. The Ministry of Defense also has a better accountability record with donors than the Ministry of Interior and has been much better able to escape factional and criminal interests. 

Other differences in command, oversight and training are designed to reinforce MoD command and control, and institutional accountability. Each Territorial Force company will be under the command of officers from the regular ANA, ideally from the reserves, and these officers may not come from the company’s district (although Non-Commissioned Officers, NCOs, can be). By contrast, ALP units follow a local commander, something which increased the tendency towards pre-existing militia units simply being ‘re-hatted’ as ALP, with their commanders and other agendas intact  ANA corps commanders select the officers and NCOs of the ANA TF. Having an experienced, professional leadership, said one international advisor “should be a counterbalance to it becoming too local a force.” 

Other efforts are going into institutionalising Territorial Force soldiers into the rest of the ANA. ANA TF recruits are subject to the same ten-week training as regular soldiers, including on human rights, rule of law, and humanitarian law. The initial aim was for recruits first to come to Kabul for an initial round of training and then to have another round regionally at the ANA headquarters they were to deploy under; this was to ensure good cooperation between regular and territorial soldiers. The original plan was for ANA TF soldiers to live in ANA barracks, co-located with regular soldiers, again to ‘socialise’ them into the ANA. ANA TF soldiers will only be allowed home when not on duty (this has not been changed), unlike the ALP who live at home.

These institutional changes could make a difference. Perhaps more importantly, every Afghan and international involved in setting up the new force has shown a greater interest in getting recruitment and ANA TF locations right from the start. The spectres of the past – Dr Najib’s militias and the civil war, the ALP and uprising forces – spurred those planning the new force into incorporating as many safeguards as possible.

Two other major differences between the ANA TF and ALP relate to funding and image. The creation of the ANA TF does not mean the overall force strength (tashkil) of the ANA will grow; every Territorial Force soldier stood up means giving up a regular ANA soldier, with the overall size of the ANA held steady. The formation of the ANA TF within the ANA, then, should not inflate costs and, in the long run, because a local force is cheaper to maintain, should reduce them.

Also significant is that, while European countries have never funded the ALP on the grounds that it is a ‘militia’, NATO is involved in the ANA TF, although it remains a largely US-military supported force.

It is still far too early to say anything about whether the newly-established ANA TF companies are working well or not. Even the oldest were established only weeks ago. Looking ahead, one would want to scrutinise various aspects of this force: whether ANA TF companies are being mobilised according to the model, that is only where there is a genuine local desire and backing for them, only in green areas and without their capture by politicians, factional forces or strongmen; whether the community involvement is something other than just the ANA TF recruiting locally; whether ANA command and control is effective and the ANA TF is institutionalised into the regular army and; whether the ANA TF succeed in protecting local people and territory, are supported by the regular ANA, and free up regular ANA soldiers to take more offensive action. (20190115)

Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANA-TF) has about 10,000 personnel mobilised in companies in 32 provinces and was established in 2018. The decision to place the ANA-TF within the Ministry of Defence and under Afghan National Army (ANA) command was intended to ensure there was better institutional control of the force compared to the ALP (given their better reputation for discipline than the ANP and Ministry of Interior). The ANA-TF is funded by NATO. There are plans, currently on hold, to expand it further, and at the same time from the US Department of Defence, the idea of using the force as a ‘reintegration vehicle’ for Taleban in the wake of any peace deal.(20200701)

More Background:

Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANATF)

The development of the Afghan National Army Territorial Force – though in its early stages - will ultimately provide a locally recruited, nationally trained and nationally led “hold force” to free the regular army units for offensive operations. The ANA-TF is a locally-recruited and nationally led hold force that the Afghans can sustain and afford. To move away from the traditional Afghan practice of using private militias and other armed groups to address local security challenges, President Ghani intends to establish an ANATF. The ANATF is meant to employ locally recruited, nationally trained and led forces in areas where security conditions permit the use of lighter, more affordable forces to provide local security. If successful, the ANATF model will allow the ANA to transition to a smaller, more affordable force in the future, provide some short-term cost savings, and allow for increased support to the ASSF and AAF. An ANATF pilot program will begin in up to three provinces in 2018, with a possible second round of pilot programs in 2019. If successful, the ANDSF planned to incorporate ANATF units into the permanent force structure starting in 2019. Recruiting for the first ANATF pilot companies began during early 2018.

The ANDSF Roadmap added the Afghan National Army Territorial Force (ANATF) as a new ANA component. The ANATF is a President Ghani-directed effort to create a more effective, professional, sustainable, and MoD-led local security force. ANATF will serve as a local “hold” force in government-controlled areas as ANDSF offensive operations progress in contested areas. Unlike the Afghan Local Police (ALP), the MoD will command and control the locally recruited, nationally trained ANATF. ANATF soldiers will receive the same basic training as all ANA soldiers and be led by full-time ANA officers. The first “pilot” ANATF tolays will complete training and begin operating with their parent ANA kandaks, brigades, and corps.

The ANATF is a pilot program designed to create ANA units that serve as the hold force in permissive security environments that typically require ANA presence to allow conventional ANA forces to conduct offensive operations in contested areas. ANATF are locally recruited, nationally trained and led personnel. The ANATF is designed to be more affordable and sustainable than traditional ANA units due to their lighter equipment. The MoD recruits ANATF soldiers from select districts where the MoD has determined an ANATF company is required. The collection of soldiers from a particular district attend traditional ANA basic training together at the Kabul Military Training Center (KMTC), followed by an additional six weeks of collective training as a company.

With the exception of the leadership, ANATF units are composed of personnel from a district that serve in their home district. The platoon level and above leadership for an ANATF unit come from the conventional ANA brigade that serves as the ANATF company’s higher headquarters. The ANATF leadership do not come from the district where the ANATF unit serves. The ANATF unit mission is to hold and secure their home district. ANATF units are not intended, nor are they equipped, to deploy away from their home district to conduct offensive operations.

ANATF units are more affordable and sustainable than conventional ANA units for several reasons: ANATF soldiers receive 75 percent of the pay a conventional ANA soldier receives; the units are equipped with light trucks, motorcycles, and small arms rather than High-Mobility, Multi- Purpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs) and artillery; and ANATF units will occupy existing bases and facilities, avoiding new infrastructure construction costs.

The Territorial Force recruits receive the same training as their regular Army counterparts at the Kabul Military Training Center. The recruits are screened, and receive 12 weeks of basic training, which includes a program on human rights, with training monitored by the NATO mission. The Territorial Force is commanded and led by regular Army officers and noncommissioned officers, and will be integrated into the brigades and corps in the areas in which they operate. The NATO mission, in conjunction with the United Nations Aid Mission Afghanistan, is advising and assisting the Ministry of Interior in improving training including human rights, reporting procedures, and supervision of the ALP.

During early 2019, soldiers for ANATF pilot units entered training and will be employed later this year. If the pilot program, which consists of up to 7 companies, is successful, additional ANATF companies will join the force in 2019 and potentially replace conventional companies in uncontested areas.(20190627)


Last Modified 2020-07-01
Established 2019-06-27