One of the greatest failures in Afghanistan’s governance is the absence of rule of law, a crucial issue for the Afghan government’s legitimacy. Basic lawlessness pervades the country, and Afghanistan lacks judges, lawyers, and a competent police force.
The United States must work to create and support a judicial sector strategy for addressing the absence of the rule of law. The Afghan government committed to develop a national judicial sector strategy at the conclusion of the July 2007 Rome Conference on the Rule of Law in Afghanistan, but has made little progress to date. The agreement included an international donor commitment of approximately $360 million to support the effort. The United States and other countries should meet their commitments.
In the meantime, informal and traditional judicial structures continue to partially fill the gap in Afghanistan. Jirgas and shuras—traditional decision-making assemblies—are estimated to account for more than 80 percent of cases settled in Afghanistan. These informal mechanisms can and do play a positive role since they are more accessible, efficient, and trusted than formal mechanisms. But they also have serious problems; women have no decision-making role in them and male elders dominate, and some settlements violate Afghan state laws, sharia, and human rights.
Where informal and formal mechanisms do not exist, lawlessness reigns, especially outside of the capital. In these areas, insurgents have made inroads, especially in southern and eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban also runs courts in the areas it controls.
For more information on the Center for American Progress’ comprehensive strategy for Afghanistan, see:
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