Corruption Threatens U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan, Galbraith Says

For instance, he said, "In Kandahar, a village -- a local power broker comes, he takes away the orchard from the village. The village goes to court and gets a judgment restoring the orchard. That would be a remarkable achievement. It wouldn't really get that far, but [if] they do and then it's not enforced, they still can't get their orchard back. And in that sense, then, they lose faith in the government.

"We are very far from being able to have an Afghan police that can operate like a police force and, in fact, I don't think we can achieve that at all," he added.

Legal Experts Say Afghanistan Improving Rule of Law

Kerry Healey, former Massachusetts lieutenant governor and executive committee member of the PPP, strongly disagreed with Galbraith's assessment.

Although Galbraith draws a correct picture of the current state, there's no reason to believe it is a static situation that cannot be changed, Healey said.

Healey traveled to Afghanistan in 2008 on a State Department-sponsored assessment mission to determine what was already being done vis-a-vis rule of law by various U.S., Afghan and NATO agencies and NGOs, and what more needed to be done.

Programs like PPP, she said, are building a nascent community of Afghan lawyers who recognize the potential of the rule of law to transform their nation. Already, she said, Afghanistan has moved from a system of extreme suppression to one where there is an infrastructure of rights and presumption of rights.

She said Afghans who participate in the program are uniformly optimistic about the future in Afghanistan.

"That optimism is never voiced by Americans who view Afghanistan from the outside," she said. "They understand the potential of rights, of having rights."

In fact, Healey said, one of the participants in PPP's defense lawyer training in Boston and Washington, D.C. last month was the founder of the first all-female law firm in Kabul, Parwin Hamkar.

Healey said there is only about 850 defense lawyers in all of Afghanistan for 30 million people. But she said the number is growing, and with it there is a growing sense of professionalism and consistency of training.

"Once that small group of educated lawyers in Afghanistan exist, then bringing the ethos of rule of law into Afghanistan becomes much more possible," she said.

Healey said she's worked with the Afghan supreme court, minister of justice and the attorney general to allow their lawyers to participate in training programs.

"They have been extremely cooperative with us to this point," she said. "I have no concerns about that. The lawyers who have worked with us are extremely aware and blunt with us about all the things" Galbraith mentioned.

Healey said it could take as long as 10 to 20 years to create a functioning court and justice system in Afghanistan. But despite the lack of institutional infrastructure, she said Afghans say to her, "Please give us a small period. Don't give up on us yet."

Hiram Chodosh, dean of the University of Utah's SJ Quinney College of Law and another PPP executive committee member, said he generally agreed with Galbraith's assessments, but disagreed with his pessimism.

"I think that not only in Afghanistan but in the history of rural reform, that European and American reformers have vastly underestimated the challenges of changing institutional and individual behavior," Chodosh said. "To think that it can be done by remote control is Pollyanna-ish."

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