The international community must abandon an 'obsession' with quantity over quality in order to combat corruption within the ranks of the Afghan National Police, according to a report published by the Royal United Services Institute.
Applying thirty years of lessons from international police reform missions around the world, Reforming the Afghan National Police assesses the 'Achilles heel' of counterinsurgency in Afghanistan as the review of the war's strategy continues.
Published days after President Karzai's promise to eliminate corruption in the Afghan government, the report uncovers a 'culture of impunity' throughout the Afghan National Police (ANP).
Abuse and graft have also been compounded by international errors in the reform process. Pointing to high desertion rates, widespread illiteracy and deep ethnic divisions in recruitment, the report finds that the current emphasis of training large numbers of police in a short time has markedly failed.
Calling for 'pyramid schemes' such as the recent pre-election surge in police numbers to end, Reforming the Afghan National Police presents the details of a new strategy for rebuilding Afghanistan's security and justice institutions.
The international effort must instead focus on reorganising the ANP's presence in key districts of Afghanistan, while the Afghan government and its partners must agree on a common standard for measuring the success of reform. The international community must work to the 'Afghan clock' of long-term investment and change.
Above all, reform of the ANP must lead to a long-term institution of law enforcement which meets the needs of ordinary Afghans, and avoid creating a short-term and corrupt 'military auxiliary' in the war against the Taliban.
Reforming the Afghan National Police argues that reform of the state ministries and judiciary is also essential - presenting options for change amid the current debate on the legitimacy of the central Kabul government after President Karzai's re-election.
Warning that 'police cannot police themselves,' the report advises urgent reform to the key Ministry of the Interior, recommending that donor assistance to the Ministry should be made conditional on cleaning up its internal oversight of the ANP.
The report adds that it is now also necessary to launch a 'surge' in Afghanistan's criminal justice system if the police reform effort is to be sustained - including increased engagement with 'informal' tribal and communal justice systems.