Michael's Dispatches

Rule of Law


150215-web1000pxPartners in Law

13 July 2011
Kandahar, Afghanistan

Most Afghans hate warlords.  Most Afghans hate the Taliban.  When the warlords ruled Afghanistan it was lawless, and so many people welcomed the Taliban who beat back the warlords and installed crude justice.  Soon, the Taliban, staggered by their new power, became the new pariah.

After 9/11 the Taliban were beaten back.  This left another justice-vacuum.  We let the vacuum stand because we were not serious about Afghanistan and so we ran off to Iraq.  We finally became serious about Afghanistan in about 2009/2010.  This gave the Taliban and their shadow government most of a decade to regenerate.  Today, they run their own courts, and since 2006 I have heard countless stories from Afghans that they would prefer to have a government (most would, anyway), but they will take the Taliban over a vacuum.  They may hate warlords, but they hate Taliban less.

NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission

And so to help bring justice to Afghanistan, on the 4 July at Kandahar Airfield, General Petraeus and a retinue of other key persons came to stand up a new command called the NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission.  The first commander is Brigadier General Mark Martins.  During the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to talk with BG Martins for several hours and it’s been quite an education, including the reading list he gave me.


On a side note, General Petraeus also placed BG Martins in charge of the Afghan biogas initiative.  The biogas initiative is important stuff but must wait for a future dispatch.


On 3 July, BG Martins loaded up a C130 transport airplane in Kabul with people involved in Rule of Law, and somehow I scored a seat.

110838-web1000pxIf the Air Force presents you with a flag saying it flew over Afghanistan, it probably did. I see this all the time. They hang flags constantly so they can give them away.

Other key Afghan figures were picked up in Kandahar City by US forces and driven to Kandahar Airfield to join the events, which led to a very funny happening.  We’ll get to that later.

154912-2-Web-1000px-2CSI combat.

Now in Kandahar, during the night of the 3rd, we toured interesting forensics labs until about 10 PM.  On the left is a chief of NDS, the National Directorate of Security.  A US equivalent of NDS would be something of a synthesis between the FBI and CIA.

Believe it or not, we have people in Kandahar who are working overtime on fingerprints, DNA, and weapons and tools forensics.  Judging from previous ground experience, I believe that the forensics people are making an important contribution to the fight and have saved many Coalition lives by bringing the downfall of innumerable enemies.

152404-web1000pxFingerprints are taken from IEDs, small arms, etc.

These forensics labs are not certified to present evidence in Afghan courts but during the tour the Afghans saw potential value.  This is more like CSI combat tracking.  And so the labs are not here to help courts that mostly don’t exist, but to track down bad guys and to clear the non-bad guys when possible.   Unfortunately, as with biogas, that’s another story.

When it comes to Rule of Law, the supposed main topic of this dispatch, the Taliban has been providing crude justice where the Afghan government has been selling corrupt justice (or none at all).  And so now this new Rule of Law outfit is in 20 districts working in the district centers helping to develop the Afghan judicial system, which, oddly, already brings us back to biogas, a topic dear to me.  Why in the world did General Petraeus put the biogas initiative under the Rule of Law command and BG Martins?  The answer is simple.

Organizations such as the Dutch Development Group (SNV) have learned through hard experience in many countries that biogas initiatives can best be implemented at the district level.   Since Rule of Law also should be implemented widely at district level, General Petraeus gave Rule of Law the responsibility for biogas.  In the US military, you have to be able to juggle, play the piano and chew gum at the same time, and so that’s what’s happening and it makes perfect sense.  But again, a digression to biogas.  These two dispatches from 2010 lay out the reasons for district level implementation: Gobar Gas and Gobar Gas II.

105248-web1000pxGobar Gas pilot plant is operating in Kabul. The stove is burning.

Rule of Law folks already installed a pilot biogas plant in Kabul.  The gas was flowing and I saw the flame with my own eyes.   They have completed a biogas digester at the Provincial Court House in Kandahar City and it will be fed by the judges and courthouse toilets, as well as cow dung purchases.  The Kandahar unit is not yet online.  Now that’s a serious tie-in from Rule of Law to biogas.

The Taliban can deliver crude justice, suicide bombers and IED cells, but that’s about it.  They can’t walk and sing at the same time.  They can’t organize a biogas program, build a road, or start mining operations. (Or, for that matter, de-mining operations.) They can intimidate but they cannot inspire.  They can take, but never serve. They can dominate but they cannot govern.

It’s best to close this dispatch with the speech delivered by General Petraeus at the ceremony, but first it’s important to finish the funny story.

After the ceremony, BG Martins got a call.  Someone in the Afghan government had contacted US forces to inquire about a rumor that two judges in Kandahar had been kidnapped by US troops.  They had last been seen getting into an American MRAP vehicle and they had not been heard from in 24 hours.  The rumor was true.  When BG Martins got the call, we were in an air-conditioned room at the new Rule of Law HQ on Kandahar Airfield, and this being the 4th of July there was a big cake with icing in the form of an American flag.  The two judges were with us and we’d already had dinner, breakfast and lunch together, and they had toured the forensics labs and seemed to be having a good time.  They had stayed on base the previous night.  After the call about the potential kidnapping, we all had a big laugh but BG Martins asked them to immediately call home.  The security and governance gains of recent months must still be translated into confidence--another good reason for the new NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission."



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  • This commment is unpublished.
    RC · 10 years ago
    I have one correction regarding the flags that hang inside the C-1 0 to fly on combat missions or any flag that fighter pilots take with them on any combat missions were requested by individual US service man and women. The Air Force individual squadrons run these programs to fly flags for them and present with a certificate to the requesters. Of course the requester will have to buy the flags from the PX. I have requested many flags flown in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Great gifts with that certificate.
    Stay safe and I will be there soon enough... again.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ishmael Royer · 10 years ago
    According to this NATO document http://www.nato.int/nato_static/assets/pdf/pdf_2011_06/20110609-Backgrounder-Rule_of_Law-en.pdf

    The NATO Rule of Law says, "The military will not engage in Rule of Law itself, rather it will support and enable Afghan officials and international actors with the mandate to do so...The NROLFSM will not have any link or connection to detention operations."

    What is "Rule of Law" without enforcement or detention capabilities. Afghanistan is ruled by Shariah Islamiyya which is devine law. Our NATO Western Law is man made and subservient to Shariah.

    NATO is meddling in Afghan Affairs building hatred and animosity masked by smiles of friendship --- until the Western money stops flowing.

    I love you Westerners who don't even have the respect to truly understand Fiqh.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Seagull · 10 years ago
    [quote name="Ishmael Royer"]...Afghanistan is ruled by Shariah Islamiyya which is devine law. Our NATO Western Law is man made and subservient to Shariah...[/quote]

    I love you religious people who still haven't realised that religion is also man-made. So now you have to prove that your medieval Sharia law is better than ours that has developed with man's own intellectual and social advances.

    But in the end you are right. I'm guessing most Afghans are clinging to their supernatural beliefs like yourself so will most likely reject sensible, measured law created by man in favour of the archaic. I feel desperately sorry for the Afghans.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    John-Capt in ANG · 10 years ago
    And us Westerners hate people who jump to conclusions especially when they condemn without complete knowledge or sincerity.

    Gen Petraeus communicates very often with leaders of GIRoA (google if you don't know this acronym) at all levels and doesn't knee jerk to the flavor of the day. To dismiss this without a real discussion is disingenuous at best.

    To Michael, good post! The tents (A ) you might have seen outside the PAX in KAIA is where I "lived" for most of my year there. I was commenting to one of my "flyer" friends who is on his way over now to Afghanistan with th CA ANG about how much easier it is to fly ISAF than US. A lot less hassle to get on and fly.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    J. Wittlich · 10 years ago
    Ishmael- I admit to knowing very little of the law (or even people) of Afghanistan.

    Is it not true that Afghanistan has codified law and a court system for dispute resolution, as well as Islamic Law? My understanding of the Afghan constitution is that it allows judges to seek guidance from Islamic law any time a case at bar is not resolvable through codified law.

    If we are to move forward in this world, we all require greater understanding.

  • This commment is unpublished.
    J. Wittlich · 10 years ago
    Additional reading, primer on Afghan Law from Stanford School of Law:


    This goes way deeper than most people would care to delve, but there is a good introduction.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    D.Carman · 10 years ago
    What was on the readiing list the BG gave you?
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Larry Wood · 10 years ago
    [quote]I love you Westerners who don't even have the respect to truly understand Fiqh.[/quote]

    And, we find it funny that Muslims seem to think that we infidels are subject to Islam/Shari'a in any manner form or way.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Mike · 10 years ago
    You would never see good, raw information like this on progress in the war from the likes of Fox or CNN. If innocents didn't die at the hands of either side, it's not worth reporting on by their standards.
    They would have had a field day on the fire bombings of Berlin while totally ignoring the liberation of the rest of Europe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    calhoun · 10 years ago
    [quote name="D.Carman"]What was on the readiing list the BG gave you?[/quote]
    I am VERY interested in a response to this question as well. Please elaborate if you can, Michael!
  • This commment is unpublished.
    David · 10 years ago
    I also am thankful for this report. But I also am interested in the reading list you were given. Thanks again Michael and stay safe.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Dan Irving · 10 years ago
    [quote name="Ishmael Royer"]
    Afghanistan is ruled by Shariah Islamiyya which is devine [sic] law [/quote]

    Iran has the same Sharia laws and they hang 16 yr old girls from cranes in full public view. Nice laws you got there bub. Allah would be proud.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Shukri · 10 years ago
    One of the problems that NATO faces is convincing the Afghan people that NATO projects are not self-serving. For instance, roads are perceived to be built solely so that coalition military vehicles can travel easier, cell phone towers are perceived to be built so anti-Taliban informant recruiting can be facilitated etc. What is NATO doing to counter these perceptions, as they are frequently used arguments on pro-rebel websites.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    woodNfish · 10 years ago
    What I understand about Shariah law is that Afghans are nothing more than barbarians and not worth a single drop of American blood or a dollar of our money. I am happy to let you live in your filth and ignorance. We have spent too much in blood and treasure in your worthless country already.

    I will be very happy when we leave. I am sure you will be as well.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    tatterdemalian · 10 years ago
    We've forgotten how. Once we were a nation of judges, but exercising judgement itself became a sin when being non-judgemental was elevated to the highest virtue of our new, multicultural society. One generation later, we are a nation of lawyers who can spout reams of memorized laws on demand, but we know only how to argue the semantics of the law. The intent is dismissed as worse than meaningless, and questioning how the system works causes open panic for fear that such investigations may uncover weaknesses that bring the whole system crashing down.

    And that's what we should truly fear in the War on Terror. Because we have intentionally buried our understanding of how justice systems work in the real world, not only can we no longer create rule of law where there is none, we also would be unable to rebuild our own system of justice were it ever to crumble in the face of invasion or natural disaster.

    We might even have to beg the Taliban to build one for us.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ishmael Royer · 10 years ago
    In Afghanistan it doesn't matter what you think to be a superior or inferior legal or religious system. What makes a man a Marxist, Capitalist, or Islamist is irrelevant. Our military has to deal with what is on the ground - not what should be or what NATO thinks is right and wrong.

    No matter how many schools and roads, are built you will not win the hearts and minds of a people who have submitted to Islam and the ruthless enforcement of Allah's Laws.

    Islamic Culture is based on Family Honor and Shame
    Western Culture based on The Individual and Right & Wrong

  • This commment is unpublished.
    Ishmael Royer · 10 years ago
    Identifying a person in Afghanistan:

    Afghanistan: Given Name, Fathers Name, Grandfathers name, last name, and place of birth City & Country.

    West: Biometrics
    Part 2

    NATO Rule of Law will fail. The enforcement of Shariah through tribal societal structure is the one constant in Afghanistan.

    Just like the protestors in Egypt were reported as freedom loving youth reformers we find out are now Muslim Brotherhood.

    What we think is irrelevant no matter how good our western intentions may be.

    Remember the celebrations when 9/11 happened. Remember the Itamar murders in Israel where a babies throat was slashed and the Islamists were handing out sweets in the street.

    Shariah Islamiyya knows no borders, no countries, no allegiance to State on to Allah.

    Google Winston Churchill and Islam - he got after dealing with SS Muslim Handzar Divisions
  • This commment is unpublished.
    staghounds · 10 years ago
    15,,000+ dead Americans every year by Americans' hands, wish we wanted to build rule of law at home.
  • This commment is unpublished.
    lily cancino · 9 years ago
    muchas felicidades a todos ustedes, y en especial al general BRIGADIER MARK MARTINS, por su excelente desempeño

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