Sustainability of the Afghan law enforcement and security forces: A 'wicked, messy problem'

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Information Warfare


School of Computer and Information Science


Collaboration and Innovation




Originally published as: Duczynski, G., Jablonski, J., & Huddleston, S. (2015). Sustainability of the Afghan law enforcement and security forces: A 'wicked, messy problem'. Journal of Information Warfare, 14(1), 48-62. Original publication available here


Aside from the challenges associated with establishing and maintaining security within Afghanistan, government officials are faced with the additional and equally complex tasks of implementing and maintaining appropriate sustainability measures over the longer term. This paper explores the subject of Afghan security force sustainability using General Morphological Analysis (GMA)—a method that has proven to be highly suited to the detailed analysis of wicked, messy problems. The paper acknowledges that the sustainability problem in Afghanistan exhibits systemic features that conspire to cause underperformance; and, if an appropriate level of sustainability is to be achieved, these systems-based elements must be managed. A factors and conditions array (Zwicky Box) is developed that captures the primary factors associated with sustainability, extends these into a range of conditions from the most favourable to the most unfavourable, specifies the current and desired conditions (the end–state), and provides for a series of planned condition changes to get from here to there. Key stages of the GMA process are highlighted throughout with comparisons made between operational design, critical vulnerabilities, asymmetry, and other military planning terms. The method, however, does not claim to replace conventional military planning processes; rather, it complements and invites a deeper appreciation of the problem space in a solution-independent manner, thereby informing more purposeful actions.