General Says Rule of Law Needed to Stop Taliban

WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2011 — To stop the Tal­iban and ter­ror­ists, Afghans must have con­fi­dence in their government’s abil­i­ty to deliv­er jus­tice and resolve civ­il dis­putes, the com­man­der of a “rule of law” force in Afghanistan said today.
Speak­ing with Pen­ta­gon reporters via video tele­con­fer­ence, Army Brig. Gen. Mark Mar­tins said the Afghan gov­ern­ment must deliv­er on estab­lish­ing the rule of law in Afghan provinces, dis­tricts and sub­dis­tricts.

Afghan offi­cials need to craft “sound gov­er­nance that will enable an endur­ing tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to Afghan forces and deny this rugged coun­try as a sanc­tu­ary for glob­al threats,” the gen­er­al said.

Fail­ure, he said, could dupli­cate con­di­tions found in Afghanistan after the fall of the com­mu­nist gov­ern­ment in 1991.

“It’s worth recall­ing that there were core griev­ances 20 years ago in the Afghanistan of the ear­ly 1990s that spawned and sub­se­quent­ly empow­ered the Tal­iban, lead­ing to the open­ing of this land as a safe haven for al-Qai­da,” Mar­tins said. “One of these griev­ances was the inabil­i­ty of the post-com­mu­nist Afghan gov­ern­ments to estab­lish a foun­da­tion at the sub­na­tion­al lev­el.”

The gov­ern­ment dis­solved, and local war­lords fought des­per­ate­ly for con­trol. The fight­ing fueled hatred as the war­lords sought to com­pel obe­di­ence through the use of force in sup­port of bla­tant self-inter­est, Mar­tins not­ed. “Under such con­di­tions,” he said, “even the harsh and repres­sive forms of dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and dis­ci­pline, adver­tised by the Tal­iban as jus­tice, seemed a tol­er­a­ble alter­na­tive.”

Afghanistan has 34 provinces and 369 dis­tricts, and the local and provin­cial gov­ern­ments are weak. Mar­tins said his rule of law field force helps Afghan offi­cials estab­lish rule-of-law “green zones” in recent­ly cleared areas in Afghanistan. The com­mand works with coali­tion and Afghan mil­i­tary and police units, as well as coali­tion civil­ian offi­cials from the Unit­ed States, Cana­da, the Unit­ed King­dom, the Euro­pean Union, the Unit­ed Nations and oth­er com­mit­ted inter­na­tion­al donors.

The Afghan gov­ern­ment is in the lead, Mar­tins said, and the com­mand falls under the aegis of the Unit­ed Nations.

Mar­tins focused on the unit’s efforts in Kan­da­har City. Coali­tion and Afghan forces, he said, cleared the west­ern part of the city of Tal­iban fight­ers. Now, they’re work­ing to hold the area, which hous­es the Afghan government’s Sara­posa deten­tion facil­i­ty, often held up by crit­ics as a sym­bol of the government’s inef­fec­tive­ness.

“In 2008, some 400 Tal­iban pris­on­ers escaped in a dar­ing day­light attack,” Mar­tins said. “Assas­si­na­tions of inves­ti­ga­tors, bribery of pros­e­cu­tors, intim­i­da­tion of jus­tices and attacks upon wit­ness­es have cor­rupt­ed the sys­tem and obscured both evi­dence and law.”

The deten­tion facil­i­ty now is part of a rule-of-law green zone, Mar­tins said. The secure area is “pro­ject­ing crim­i­nal jus­tice, as well as medi­a­tion and civ­il-dis­pute res­o­lu­tion, to out­ly­ing dis­tricts” as the Chel Zeena Crim­i­nal Inves­tiga­tive Cen­ter, he added.

“The imme­di­ate goal of Chel Zeena is to con­duct pro­fes­sion­al, evi­dence-based inves­ti­ga­tions, and inde­pen­dent, law-gov­erned pros­e­cu­tions of the indi­vid­u­als detained in the new­ly refur­bished Sara­posa pre­tri­al deten­tion facil­i­ty adja­cent to it,” Mar­tins said.

The Chel Zeena Cen­ter fea­tures effi­cient offices, around-the-clock light­ing and util­i­ties, admin­is­tra­tive facil­i­ties, evi­dence and hear­ing rooms, as well as pro­tec­tive hous­ing for inves­ti­ga­tors, pros­e­cu­tors, guards and cler­i­cal per­son­nel. These peo­ple are con­stant­ly in dan­ger, the gen­er­al said, and the com­plex gives them the chance to do their jobs safe­ly. Afghanistan is estab­lish­ing rule of law green zones in oth­er provin­cial cen­ters, he said, with link­age to pro­tec­tive zones for out­ly­ing dis­tricts.

“This hub-and-spoke link­age between green zones in key provinces and dis­tricts is help­ing to cre­ate a sys­tem of jus­tice at the sub­na­tion­al lev­el,” Mar­tins said.

“It takes a net­work to defeat a net­work,” he con­tin­ued. “The result­ing improve­ments in dis­trict gov­er­nance can help dis­place the Tal­iban and pre­vent their return by offer­ing less arbi­trary dis­pute res­o­lu­tion and dis­pelling fear among the pop­u­la­tion.”

The efforts don’t cost much and are achiev­able and sus­tain­able, the gen­er­al said.

“The strength­en­ing of tra­di­tion­al dis­pute res­o­lu­tion at the local lev­el is one of the most effi­cient and effec­tive ways to achieve the kind of secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty that can enable tran­si­tion of respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghan gov­ern­ment and its forces, and pro­tect our own core nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests,” Mar­tins said.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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