Justice and Accountability: Traditional, informal judicial structures continue to fill the gap in justice for many Afghans, while the formal justice sector remains inaccessible and corrupt, and is unable to confront impunity, adjudicate land disputes, unravel criminal networks, or protect the rights of citizens.
Economic Conditions: High economic growth and a more open business environment have improved the general health of the Afghan economy, yet these benefits have not translated into sufficient employment and income generating activities for the ordinary citizen.
Social Services and Infrastructure: Although reconstruction investments by the international community have enhanced social services and infrastructure, deteriorating security conditions, a scarcity of competent personnel and low quality has limited access and its benefits for many Afghans.
The Afghan government and its international allies face a far more difficult and complex situation today than they did when the Taliban fell in 2001. Reforms are required in the military and civilian sectors, especially as the violence is expected to increase as spring approaches.
Countering these negative trends requires a more focused effort. A policy of “staying the course”—even if bolstered by new resources—will not reverse the trends. A fresh surge of supplemental funding is expected this year. It must be directed in a way that finds and engages the maximum number of Afghan citizens.
1. Restore public confidence in the plan for safety. Focus on Kandahar and Helmand provinces; treat the threat as an insurgency; concentrate on ways to counter the Taliban’s tribal and charismatic appeal and tactics of intimidation; and restore confidence in the U.S. and international commitment.
Move from “big army” sweeps to a rapid-response mode that would provide a “15-minute” rapid response protective umbrella in the endangered south and east of thecountry. Establish a consistent Afghan-led security presence in half of the 26 districts in Kandahar and Helmand provinces, with more flexible fighting forces and more helicopters.
Address Pakistan-Afghanistan challenges by focusing on the needs of disenfranchised Pashtun communities on both sides of the border. Invest in intelligence to clarify developments in the border region.
Shift the anti-drug effort from eradication to a combination of purchase, alternative crops, and interdiction, with a particular emphasis on the high-growth provinces ofKandahar and Helmand.
2. Mobilize communities to contribute to the recovery. Move away from over-reliance on Kabul and centralized systems; diminish the role of middle men and corruption; andenhance local participation.
Improve the use of international funds by shifting to a venture-capital model, delivering direct payments to the struggling Afghan middle class, and investing innon-traditional partners.
Leverage existing structures by expanding the National Solidarity Program (NSP) and working with the informal justice sector. Shift 50 percent of the developmentbudget to the provincial level, and distribute direct assistance through the Hawala system.
Expand communications through a single message of effort and partnership, and use “no-tech” to “high-tech” methods such as text messaging or holding meetings inlocal town halls to link up with key gatekeepers of information (e.g., mullahs, truck drivers, local elders).
Restoring progress in Afghanistan requires dramatic changes. If a critical mass of Afghans experiences positive change, the negative trends are reversible. 2007 is the breaking point.

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