All sides must raise their game in Afghanistan

( AFP ) - The international community and the Afghan government alike must raise their game this year to stop Afghanistan from tearing itself apart, Britain's Foreign Secretary said Sunday.

International efforts in the country needed to move to a new phase - and there would be "no military solution" to Afghanistan's problems, David Miliband wrote in The Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

"The military can only provide the space for the reconstruction and development, without which progress will be temporary," he said.

"Our strategy in Afghanistan must combine the immediate military focus on fighting the Taliban with the economic development and clean government that is the best defence against insurgency."

He said the Afghan police force needed to be strengthened and better trained, while the government needed to build up the capacity of local institutions.

Young Afghans needed better opportunities to learn and make a living to avoid being sucked into the drugs trade, said Miliband, who visited Afghanistan last week with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Miliband called for closer ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan, saying their fortunes were closely bound together.

"Unless there is a joint plan for addressing the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and other insurgents, the two countries risk shunting the problem back and forth across the border. Both sides must put their shared interest in fighting the terrorist insurgency above historical differences," he wrote.

"Both the Afghan government and the international community have a mutual interest and a mutual responsibility to raise their games over the next year.

"For the Afghan government the responsibility is to deliver strong leadership that unites the country, roots out corruption and builds a partnership with its neighbours to promote stability.

"For the United Nations, NATO and the European Union, there is the responsibility to ensure the scale of our efforts matches the severity of the challenge and deliver a more coherent and comprehensive approach."

Britain and the United States have been calling not only for reinforcements in Afghanistan, but also for their freer use around the country, sharing the burden of front-line fighting against the Taliban insurgency.

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