Tobias Ellwood, a leading UK parliamentarian from the Conservative party, urges the international community to make adjustments to its approach in supporting Afghanistan, if it is to achieve its aims post-2014. In a new Atlantic Council report released today, Stabilizing Afghanistan: Proposals for Improving Security, Governance, and Aid/Economic Development, Ellwood argues that the international community will only achieve its long-term goal in Afghanistan if is adjusts its current approach to better address governance, security, and economic development.

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The report assesses how Afghanistan is progressing on the security, governance, and economic front. Ellwood concludes that the international community has one more chance between now and 2014 to leave behind an Afghanistan that broadly secures Afghan and international interests. Ellwood urges the international community to focus in particular on reforms to the Afghan political system, reconciliation, and local economic development to avoid the prospects of a civil war after the international community departs.

He argues that the Afghan political system fails to take into account the country’s ethnic diversity, regional influences, and historical precedent; that the large, conventional Afghan National Security Forces currently may not be appropriate or sustainable for the post 2014 period; and that at the macro level, international aid and development assistance have failed to  create  the economic building blocks needed for Afghanistan’s self-reliance.

To address these shortcomings, Ellwood offers the following recommendations:

  • Conduct an Afghan Security and Defense Review to review anew the proper size and structure of the Afghan National Security Forces and conduct a transparent plan for the downsizing of the army.
  • Form  a more inclusive political system, focusing on a less centralized political structure that offers more authority to the regions and results in the creation of the post of prime minister. The role of the president should be downsized to that of a national figurehead.
  • Initiate a dialogue with the Taliban, to include a direct dialogue between the United States and the Taliban and a promise from the Afghan government for the conditional inclusion of the Taliban into a more regionally focused structure where it has the ability to participate in elections.
  • Develop a wider strategy for regional support for Afghanistan, to include offering greater support for Pakistan from the international community and enhanced economic support from the region for Afghanistan’s success, including from Iran.
  • Focus on Afghanistan’s transport infrastructure,  in particular on the development of Afghanistan’s roads and on building a rail network in Afghanistan to link it to the greater region and enhancing the ability of Afghan exporters to deliver their markets to a dynamic region.

Ellwood was elected a member of parliament from Bournemouth in May 2005. This report is a publication of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security