Bottom-up approach needed in Afghanistan: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The drive to stabilize Afghanistan must focus on cultivating local leaders, better training of Afghan troops and police, and pressing Kabul to fight corruption, a report by a U.S. think tank said on Tuesday.

Security in Afghanistan should be rethought to address failures in the seven years since the ousting of the Islamist Taliban after the September 11 attacks, the report published by the U.S. Institute of Peace says.

The top-down approach at nation-building that is focused on the central government in Kabul has not worked well because it ignores Afghanistan’s decentralized history, said the U.S. Congress-funded institute’s report, titled “Securing Afghanistan.”

“The weak nature of the Afghan state, the inadequate level of international forces, and the local nature of the insurgency require building a bottom-up capacity to complement national forces,” it said.

The international community should work with local leaders and tribal councils to give them legitimacy, provide services and connect them to the central government, said the report.

This approach would also be more likely to reconcile Afghan tribes, sub-tribes, and clans and help them turn against the Taliban, wrote report authors Christine Fair and Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation.


The report argues that the United States and NATO will be unlikely to defeat the Taliban and other insurgent groups on their own because their mission stokes nationalistic reactions to what is perceived as foreign occupation.

“More U.S. forces in Afghanistan may be helpful, but only if they are used to build Afghan capacity,” said the report. Washington, which is planning to nearly double the 37,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, should use more of them to mentor senior officers of Afghanistan’s police and army, it said.

NATO should involve Afghans more directly in campaign planning and operations, and integrate Afghan military and intelligence personnel into joint operations centers, the report added.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama had accepted his proposal that Kabul join an inter-agency review of Washington’s policy on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

To fight corruption, the United States needs to work with the Afghan government and press upon Kabul that “corrupt government officials, including those involved in the drug trade, need to be prosecuted and removed from office.”

Opium traffickers have paid off hundreds of police chiefs, judges and other Afghan officials, the study said, citing U.S. intelligence reports.

Anti-corruption efforts should start at the Ministry of Interior, where corruption has hindered police reform, counter-narcotics efforts and border security, it said.

The United States will have to directly confront Karzai with intelligence on officials in his government involved in the narcotics trade and try to overcome his reluctance to clamp down on those officials during an election year, the report recommended.

Editing by Philip Barbara