Afghan success vs. Taliban seen hanging on reform

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WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) Defeating the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan will require President Hamid Karzai to lead a new anti-corruption campaign that can stop disillusioned Afghans from turning to extremism, according to a report.

The report released yesterday by the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said ordinary Afghans have seen five years of often corrupt leadership in the provinces since the Taliban government fell to US-led forces in retaliation for the September 11 attacks.

Ordinary people have seen little improvement in their everyday lives. Public institutions are weak or nonexistent, and where institutions do exist they are so corrupt that people wish they were not there, the crisis group said.

''This state of affairs has particular implications in the south, where many of the worst provincial and district leaders have close links to the central administration,'' said the 36-page report, entitled ''Countering Afghanistan's Insurgency: No Quick Fixes.'' ''As a result, the disillusioned, the disenfranchised and the economically desperate are responding again to the call of extremists in a region radicalized through decades of conflict,'' it said.

This is one of the bloodiest years in Afghanistan's post-Taliban history. Fighting and bombing occur virtually daily and the government has warned of a coming rise in suicide raids.

The crisis group, which produces widely respected reports on hot spots around the world, said NATO needs to commit more international troops to combat zones in the south and east. It criticized Germany, Spain, France, Turkey and Italy for not being willing to send troops into embattled areas.

The report also called on the international community to step up diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to stop Taliban and al Qaeda fighters from crossing the border into Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is suffering from ill-conceived Western hopes of fighting ''a quick, cheap war'' that could be followed by ''a quick, cheap peace,'' the crisis group said.

''Even now, there is less than one peacekeeper per 1,000 people in Afghanistan. In Bosnia, it was 18.6 per thousand, Kosovo 20,'' said Mark Schneider, the International Crisis Group's senior vice president. He said foreign aid statistics for Afghanistan follow a similar pattern.

The report called on Karzai to reinvigorate public faith in the government by leading a high-profile campaign against corrupt government and police officials, including senior members involved in Afghanistan's burgeoning narcotics trade.

Karzai also should work to extend the rule of law by ending what has become a culture of impunity among government officials and their allies, it said.

''The current violence is an urgent wake-up call for remedial action,'' the report concluded. ''There is nothing inevitable about failure in Afghanistan ... however, without rethinking policies, there is equally nothing inevitable about success.'' REUTERS YA VC1053

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