New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Afghan government, the United Nations and Nato member states had not done enough to check the power of local military commanders who hold sway outside the capital, Kabul.
"War lords and their troops in many areas have been implicated in widespread rape of women and children, murder, illegal detention, forced displacement, human trafficking and forced marriage," the rights group said on Saturday ahead of a meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva next week.
Army, police complicity
"Local military and police forces, even in Kabul, have been involved in arbitrary arrests, kidnapping, extortion, torture, and extrajudicial killings of criminal suspects," it added.
Key to tackling the problem and bringing abusers to book is disarming armed groups and establishing a functioning judiciary and police force, the group said.
"Armed factions, including Taliban forces, dominate most of the country and routinely abuse the rights of women and girls"
Human Rights Watch
"War lords and armed factions, including remaining Taliban forces, dominate most of the country and routinely abuse human rights, particularly the rights of women and girls," it said.
The group said that the "international community has failed to contribute sufficient troops or resources to adequately address the situation, and basic human rights conditions remain poor in many parts of the country, especially outside of Kabul."
More steps required
Steps had been taken to tackle the power of regional leaders by removing Ismail Khan as governor of Herat and by dismissing powerful former defence minister Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, but more needed to be done, HRW said.
Women had made progress with widespread participation in the country's first presidential election in October but the country was still threatened by the power of drug kingpins.
"Afghanistan was the largest worldwide producer of opium and heroin in 2004 and drug profits led to continuing insecurity in rural areas, and stifled reconstruction and development efforts, including efforts to improve rule of law," the group said.
The UN commission should raise the number of human rights monitors in the country and deploy more to regional centres where they can better monitor human rights abuses, it added.
It should also request that Nato immediately expand its peacekeeping operations to provide security to the western, southern and southeastern areas of Afghanistan.