David T. Johnson
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
Remarks at Afghan American Chamber of Commerce
Washington, DC
November 8, 2010

Good afternoon, my name is David Johnson. I am the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, known as “INL.” While I have worldwide responsibilities to oversee our rule of law and counternarcotics foreign assistance programs, I spend a great deal of time working on Afghanistan. As you know better than I, the success of the Afghan private sector economy will be a key indicator of how well we are doing in advancing the rule of law in Afghanistan. This conference comes at a critical time in our efforts to help the Afghan central government develop modern institutions and provide tangible services and protection to Afghans both within and outside of Kabul and other major cities.

Before I get started, I want to extend my thanks to the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce (AACC) Chair Mr. Sulaiman Lutfi as well as the AACC President Don Ritter, for inviting me to speak to you today. I’m also honored to be in the company of Minister of Commerce Ahadi and Governor Fitrat of the Afghan Central Bank to discuss issues that are of great importance to Afghanistan.

For many years INL has operated police training and rule of law missions in Latin America, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Of course, soon after the U.S. became involved in Afghanistan, INL began to play a critical role in training not only police, but prosecutors, judges, defense attorneys, and corrections officers. With U.S. congressional support, we have provided financial assistance, subject matter assistance, and equipment and infrastructure, to support the development of the rule of law and to help Afghan institutions that have been undone by 30 years of violence begin to right themselves.

INL has been able to meet such a diverse set of challenges around the world, because we base all of our programs on three things: 1) Local Government support; 2) Subject Matter Expertise; and 3) Successful Partnerships.

- Local Government Buy-in: We always consider local support for our efforts a pre-condition for effective implementation. Where possible, we bring in qualified local national staff to work on our programs, not just as interpreters and translators, but as experts on legal issues, cultural boundaries and local government capacity. For example, our Afghan justice assistance program has almost twice the number of Afghan legal advisors as U.S. advisors. This not only builds capacity within our own staff that will stay as we build our rule-of-law programs, it also builds programs that are more effective and more likely to be culturally and politically accepted.

- Expertise: The State Department has the lead role in providing U.S. foreign assistance to other countries and is highly qualified to work in unsettled areas. However, we have a limited number of attorneys, corrections officers, and former police chiefs in our ranks. For that reason, INL has sought out rule of law professionals, including former prison administrators, prosecutors, police officers, lawyers, and international rule of law experts to serve as U.S. Government advisors both to our Washington staff and in embassies around the world. For example, at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, INL has a large contingent of former prosecutors, international rule of law experts, corrections officers and police officials to advise the U.S. Ambassador and his staff and to interact directly with Afghan government officials.

- Partnerships: Even though INL has a sizable budget and a lot of in-house expertise, we are not equipped with in-house talent to undertake every mission. For that reason we endeavor wherever possible to develop partnerships with other donors, foreign governments, and other U.S. agencies to develop the most effective programs possible. This is sometimes called the “whole of government approach.” In Afghanistan, INL works with all of our Coalition partners on a broad range of issues related to supporting Afghan economic and political reconstruction. In the last year, INL has partnered with the Italian Carabinieri, the German police training mission, and the French national police, among others, to provide tangible assistance to the Afghan justice sector. A recent example of such a partnership is the Afghan Judicial Security Unit, a new organization charged with protecting judges and court officials in Afghanistan. In this partnership, the U.S. military constructed a headquarters for the unit; the U.S. Marshals are working with the unit's captain to structure and grow the organization; the French provide close protection training for the unit’s senior officers; and INL provides basic training, operational support, equipment, and ultimately an advanced training program for the unit. By the end of the year, there will be 700 trained and equipped Judicial Security Officers in Kabul charged with protecting judges and court officials involved in anti-corruption, narcotics, and other major crimes cases. We also have another 700 in training to protect judicial officials in Kandahar, Jalalabad and other critical regions in Afghanistan.

Applying these precepts to Afghanistan and making dramatic adjustments to fit local challenges and circumstances, security being chief among them, we have had some significant successes that give us hope that we are on the rod, though perhaps a long one, of restoring a sustainable rule of law system. Some of those successes include:

  • Training more than 5,000 justice professionals and 3,000 corrections officers not only in Kabul but throughout Afghanistan; by the end of the year we expect to have conducted courses in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan.

  • The construction of the Counter Narcotics Justice Center, a model court for Afghanistan and a key tool for the Government of Afghanistan to prosecute drug traffickers and corrupt officials. This court handled about 900 cases last year, about 150 of which involved government officials.

  • Working with the Attorney General and the Ministry of Interior to establish the Major Crimes Task Force and an anti-corruption tribunal which, despite recent setbacks, has still indicted over 100 cases and has many more under investigation.

But we have also been involved in a lot of smaller programs that may in the long run mean even more to Afghanistan’s future:

  • In partnership with Stanford University, we are supporting the drafting of a modern Afghan legal curriculum in English, Dari and Pashto that’s being used at the American University of Afghanistan.

  • INL mentors have developed and are currently implementing a case management system that, for the first time, gives prosecutors, judges, police, and defense attorneys full access to records and files for cases, increasing transparency throughout the criminal justice system. This has already resulted in more than a 100 people being released from Pol-i-Charkhi prison who had finished their sentences, and many more getting their cases back on track.

  • Last year, in partnership with the University of Washington, we sponsored the first Moot Court competition in the history of Afghanistan. The winning team, despite living through an IED attack on their hotel in Kabul during the national competition, traveled to Washington for the international finals, won multiple rounds, and was awarded the “Spirit of Jessup award.”

  • We are currently in the process of awarding $20 million in grants to international and Afghan NGOs to work on rule of law and gender justice efforts in Afghanistan, focusing on, among other things, expanding the presence of legal aid and private defense services throughout Afghanistan.

While these are good first steps, we recognize that more must be done. Over the next year, we will be working to establish legal aid clinics throughout Afghanistan to help provide all Afghans representation in court; we are in the process of establishing legal proceedings for high level national security cases, so that Afghanistan has the tools to put its enemies in jail; and we are working with the courts, prosecutors, and police to root out the corruption that erodes the Afghan judicial system.

Because I am speaking to a business community, you are likely more aware than anyone of what an impediment corruption is to development. Corruption is not just a resource problem. We can’t just throw more money at this to fix it -- in fact, that may make it worse! There are some areas, such as raising salaries to a livable wage, where additional financial support is required. But the majority of the work in the justice sector is helping to build a system transparent enough to make corruption difficult, that provides punishments significant and certain enough to make corruption risky, and to build a system so that those punishments are consistently enforced by the Afghan Government.

We have a long way to go, but by working with Afghan government officials as partners, bringing significant subject matter expertise to the table to develop sound, sustainable programs, and developing strong partnerships between U.S. agencies, and between the U.S. and the international community, we will be able substantially to reduce corruption and improve the rule of law over the next few years.

It has been a great pleasure being with you today and I want to close with a final thought. Without international efforts to help create a system to provide the average Afghan citizen with justice and protect the rights of Afghan entrepreneurs to conduct business, our other endeavors in Afghanistan will not prosper. The task before us is not easy, but it is necessary, and I want to commend all of who have devoted your time and talents and your optimism to this noble goal.

[This is a mobile copy of Afghan-American Relations]

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