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President Karzai’s Message

Governance and Rule of Law in Afghanistan: Challenges and Opportunities

Political Counselor M. Ashraf Haidari was invited to participate in the Leadership Development & Education for Sustained Peace workshop for the senior leadership of the US Army 101st Airborne Division at Kentucky's Fort Campbell on August 8. Haidari gave a presentation to Commanding Major General Jeffrey J. Schloesser and his senior officers on “Governance and Rule of Law in Afghanistan: Challenges and Opportunities.”

Haidari discussed the root causes of weak governance in Afghanistan, which he said originated from a combination of late formation of state institutions in Afghanistan, the past thirty years of war and state collapse, and a lack of attention and resources for the implementation of the security sector reform over the past six years. Haidari traced Afghanistan’s history of weak governance to primary allegiance to local tribes and their resistance to central rule and modernization, as well as the state’s inability to deliver effective justice. Hence, Haidari said, people mostly resorted to customary law to resolve their problems through jirgas and shuras—traditional means of governance in Afghanistan.

Haidari noted that in the 1980s, the Communist regime pursued a strong centralized system with governance limited to provincial centers. The regime ran a Ministry of State Security as a central enforcement body, which suppressed opposition to the regime and the communist ideology. Except for certain criminal cases, people mostly stayed away from the pro-communist justice sector and resorted to jirgas and shuras to resolve their problems.

He added that in the 1990s, Afghanistan ceased to have a police force and the formal judicial system completely collapsed. It was replaced by the Taliban’s Ministry for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which they brutally used to subjugate and oppress people in the name of Islamic of justice.

“In the post-Taliban era of democratic peace-building, the important task of reforming Afghanistan’s justice and police sectors—which together constitute the face any government and its legitimacy in popular eyes—was neglected from beginning,” Haidari stated. The first international conference on how to accelerate the judicial reform was held only recently in July 2007, while committed resources for revamping the police reform are still in the pipeline. “A lack of attention and resources for the two critical sectors have directly contributed to insecurity across Afghanistan, and can further undermine the significant achievements of the past six years,” Haidari said.

However, Haidari pointed out that “we’re not lost in Afghanistan and know what to do the turn around the situation in the country. We should begin first by strategic coordination across the security sector reform and provide long-term resources for the parallel implementation of each sector, particularly the judicial and police sectors because neither sector can effectively function without the other.” Haidari discussed the funding figures from different donor countries and appreciated the US commitment of over $8 billion dollars to build Afghanistan’s security and law enforcement institutions. Haidari noted, however, that Afghanistan’s other partners needed to share the burden with the US, and called the role of the European Union critical in reforming Afghanistan’s police force.

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