Throughout March and April, we will share stories from five Navy judge advocates who have served as Rule of Law Field Support Officers (ROLFSOs). We kick-off the series with an introduction to the Rule of Law mission in Afghanistan by Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins. Following the introduction we have our first post provided by Lt. Kyle Fralick, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan.
U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark S. Martins, Former Commander,
Rule of Law Field Force–Afghanistan & NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission
Rule of Law Field Support Officers (ROLFSOs) are at the forefront of efforts by Afghanistan and its international partners to fill a void of sub-national governance that is widely understood to be the source of local, regional, and global instability and to be hampering effective transition of security responsibility to the Afghan government. In remarks at NATO Headquarters in Brussels to defense ministers of nations contributing troops to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in March 2011, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said:
[A]s we consider the elements of effective transition, it is worth recalling the core grievances in Afghanistan that spawned and subsequently empowered the Taliban 20 years ago. One of these grievances was the lack of government at the local level, which fed lawlessness and corruption that affected individual Afghans in their daily lives. Under such conditions, the harsh and repressive forms of dispute resolution and discipline advertised by the Taliban as justice seemed a tolerable alternative. Unfortunately, a vacuum of governance remains in key areas. We must support the Afghan government in its efforts to establish basic dispute resolution in key districts in order to facilitate improvements in security, to create the conditions that foster the reintegration and reconciliation of former insurgents, and to combat corruption that undermines trust in the Afghan government. All these goals support a durable transition.
Within this context, the U.S. strongly supports the proposal for a NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission currently being considered within the ISAF coalition. This new mission would bring to bear much-needed field capabilities, liaison, and security in support of Afghan and international civilian providers of technical assistance; these civilian providers can then more effectively help Afghans increase access to dispute resolution services and enhance the legitimacy of the Afghan government. If we don’t win here, the Taliban will.
With this as the rationale, 49 nations of the NATO-ISAF coalition voted on June 9, 2011, to establish the NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission, dual-hatting and building upon work already begun by the U.S. Rule of Law Field Force–Afghanistan. Applicants for ROLFSO positions have been selected based on their demonstrated potential to advance—in often austere field settings within Afghanistan’s affected provinces and districts—the objectives stated by Secretary Gates in Brussels. The five officers featured in this series have been the very best ROLFSOs imaginable, and I commend their observations and insights to you, even as I take this opportunity to thank them and their families for the sacrifices entailed by deployment.
Lt. Kyle Fralick, Nangarhar Province, Afghanistan
I was assigned as a Rule of Law Field Support Officer (ROLFSO) in Nangarhar, Kunar, and Laghman provinces, all in eastern Afghanistan. However, I primarily worked in Nangarhar province and two of its districts–Kuz Kunar and Behsud.
As a ROLFSO I had the opportunity to work in two of these “spoke” districts–Kuz Kunar and Behsud–as well as the hub for this region–Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
At the hub of Jalalabad I designed, contracted, and managed a project to refurbish a vacant room at the courthouse complex into the region’s first public trial courtroom. Previously, “trials” were held in judges’ offices, behind closed doors. The public was unaware what, if anything, its justice system was doing, and private office trials left ample opportunity for corruption and bribery, which fueled devastating problems throughout the Afghan justice system.
In addition to the courtroom project, I worked on a number of other projects around Jalalabad to increase security of the major justice institutions, coordinate legal training, and facilitate Afghan national security prosecutions of suspected insurgents.
As a ROLFSO, working in the spoke districts of Kuz Kunar and Behsud, I was fortunate to be involved with the first district-level public trial in Nangarhar province in at least 30 years. This one, small public trial paid enormous dividends for transparent justice and public confidence in the justice system, a vital part of the Afghan government and a primary objective of our overall counterinsurgency effort. Kuz Kunar has since averaged about one public trial per week.
As a district ROLFSO I also integrated local justice sector officials with their provincial counterparts (connecting the spokes to the hub), mentored prosecutors, and provided much needed supplies, equipment and legal reference materials.
Overall this individual augmentation has been an enormously enriching and enjoyable experience, both personally and professionally. Working for a combined, joint, interagency task force has afforded me the opportunity to work with every branch of the U.S. military, foreign military units, civilians, U.S. and international nongovernmental organizations, and many institutions of the Afghan government.
Most Afghans have great admiration for our legal system, its history, institutions, and, most of all, respect for the rule of law. Being here on the ground, working with Afghan lawyers, judges and police to help improve their legal system and strengthen the rule of law has caused me to reflect on our legal system. My respect and appreciation for our freedoms, our rights and our liberties has never been greater. The truths we hold to be self-evident are not so everywhere.