Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday admitted his Western-backed administration was unable to deliver justice to the people, despite decade-long international efforts to rebuild the war-torn nation.
Led by the United States, the international community has pumped billions of dollars into Afghanistan since the Taliban's Islamist regime was toppled in a 2001 invasion, and NATO has 130,000 troops defending Karzai's government.
"No doubt there has been lots of progress in governance, in delivering service to the people. The government, the parliament and the courts have better capabilities compared to 10 years ago," Karzai said in a speech as he inaugurated an association of Afghan women judges.
"But are we in the place that the people desire, are we in the place to heal the pains and suffering of the Afghanistan people in a way that the people desire? No.
"The reason that the people of Afghanistan in the villages and across the countryside, (even) in the cities, still seek justice through the traditional method is because the government neither has the ability to provide that justice nor can it be addressed on time.
"And sometimes -- I hope it's only sometimes, not most of the times -- instead of getting justice, they are getting injustice."
Because of corruption in the courts many Afghans prefer traditional justice systems, often local community councils, to settle their disputes.
In parts of the country where Taliban insurgents are most active, the villagers turn to the Taliban's harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
The public execution of a young woman for adultery last month, captured on a video which showed a crowd of cheering men watch as she was shot dead, drew international condemnation.
Karzai's admission came as the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch issued its own condemnation of Afghanistan's justice system, saying U.N. studies have shown "prosecutors and judges to be among the most corrupt officials in Afghanistan".
"Afghanistan's justice system in both military and civilian trials remains weak and compromised, in spite of over 10 years of donor assistance," the rights group said.
Its comments came in a statement urging France to call on Karzai to commute the death sentence handed down this week to an Afghan soldier for killing four French troops in January.