For five days in October,
Legal Times reporter Marisa McQuilken was embedded with a team of lawyers, judges, and diplomats on a State Department fact-finding mission examining rule-of-law efforts in Afghanistan. In this special report, she reports on the efforts of private firms, public officials, and Afghan lawyers as they attempt to build a working justice system. The efforts have been hampered not only by political strife, but by international missteps and deep suspicion among the Afghan people about the viability of a Western-style legal system in their country.

The Realities of Reform
Last year, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice enthusiastically launched the Public-Private Partnership for Justice Reform in Afghanistan, a partnership with private law firms designed to put American lawyers in contact with their Afghan counterparts for rule-of-law training. Private firms have contributed $1.5 million in cash and services to the effort, but major obstacles lie on the road to success: The Afghan people are resisting Western-style rule of law reforms, Americans already on the ground in the country are protective of their turf, and the Partnership is still learning to grapple with the country’s unique legal culture.

Rule of Law Revolution
Is Afghanistan really ready for — or does it even want — a Western-style legal system? From tribal tradition and Islamic law to the mountainous geography itself, obstacles to building a successful and lasting justice system in Afghanistan are myriad. Americans are just the latest to try to make their mark. The Soviet Union, the Mujahideen, the Taliban, all said, “our ideas will last a thousand years,” says the U.S. ambassador. As a result, “there’s a little skepticism here about people who have good ideas.” How Western missteps and cultural issues are blocking the road to reform.

A Reporter’s Notebook
A first-person account by reporter Marisa McQuilken on the dangers and beauty in Kabul, from the hope of young artist selling his paintings at a bazaar to a dangerous encounter at a checkpoint.


Images from the streets of Kabul LEGAL TIMES VIDEO:
A Lawyer on the Ground
Training Afghan Lawyers
Reporter’s Notebook