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NEWS | April 1, 2011

Afghan governors discuss rule of law priorities

By MCC (SW) Maria Yager , Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435

PARWAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan (March 31, 2011) — Afghan provincial governors and senior representatives from various Afghan ministries met with Combined Joint Interagency Task Force 435 members March 29 to discuss peace and stability in their provinces.

During the shura the group discussed rule of law efforts, prison reform and the biometrically enabled electronic tazkera.

“The shura was most informative to gather information and engage in discussion on these topics,” said Afghan National Army Maj. General Marjan Shuja, CJIATF-435 Afghan commander. “It was good to see the eagerness of the governors to improve the conditions in their provinces.”

Currently, the Afghan government is establishing provincial justice centers in Mazar-e-Sharif, Nangarhar, Khost, Kandahar and Herat. These courts will increase Afghanistan’s rule of law efforts by providing citizens access to dispute resolution services and building Afghan criminal justice capacity.

“The number one priority for my task force is working with leaders throughout Afghanistan to enable rule of law,” said U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Robert S. Harward, CJIATF-435 commander. “You cannot have security without rule of law and this is as important as anything we do. Once these first five provincial justice centers are established, we will expand further.”

The governors also considered 36 additional proposed sites for justice centers.  The governors reviewed the information presented, provided additional guidance for prioritizing development, and requested to meet again to further discuss this topic.

“There is no question this is needed, but we need to analyze this information and decide what is needed for our provinces,” said one governor.

The group also received a provincial prison update in which they discussed initiatives Afghan agencies have identified to better manage prisoner rehabilitation efforts and prevent prisons from becoming breeding grounds for the extremist insurgency in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials, partnered with CJIATF-435 and provincial reconstruction teams, have identified 31 provincial prisons requiring reinforcement. These projects include renovations increasing security measures, moving national security threats from provincial prisons to the Afghan National Detention Facility, implementing vocational training, upgrading housing units and improvements for prison staff, ultimately support expanding rule of law capacity in Afghanistan.

The governors were particularly interested in an ongoing initiative to improve Afghanistan’s prisoner case management system. Using Pol-e-Charki prison as a starting point, officials from the Central Prison Directorate, National Directorate of Security, Ministry of Justice and CJIATF-435 created a centralized computer data base for use within the prison system. The system allows agencies to access and track cases at Pol-e-Charki and prevent individual cases from languishing.

The governors agreed expanding the case management system to their provinces would be helpful and each offered feedback on additional prison initiatives desired to increase security in their respective provinces.

“One side of rule of law is infrastructure, but another point is governance and we greatly need improvements in this area,” said one governor, who shared the challenges in his prison and discussed ideas with the group of how they could better manage their prison population to bring security to their provinces.

The biometrically enabled national identification system, the electronic tazkera, was discussed at length.  Current tazkeras contain personally identifying information on a sheet of paper with records kept in handwritten books throughout Afghanistan. The electronic tazkera will have the same data currently on the paper tazkera, plus fingerprints, iris scans and digital images of citizens. The electronic tazkera’s use of fingerprints and iris scans which are unique to each individual makes it a more secure and form of identification.

“This is good for security because it will not allow an individual to fake their identity,” said Harward. “When you get your electronic tazkera you provide all your personally identifiable information, which will forever be associated with your fingerprint or iris scan.”

In the future, the electronic tazkera may be used to provide Afghans a national basis for voter registration, motor vehicle registration, business registration, trade licensing, school enrollment and future government services.

The shura concluded with discussions of other topics of interest including detainee reintegration efforts.  Attendees agreed the time was well spent.  According to CJIATF 435’s Afghan commander, the day’s discussions will ultimately help the task force align its efforts with the priorities of the governors and other key stakeholders.

CJIATF-435 includes U.S. service members from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, plus civilians and coalition members. CJIATF-435 partners with numerous Afghan ministries and is comprised of members from the following agencies: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, International Security Assistance Force Joint Command, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. CJIATF-435 is conducting a conditions-based transition of detention operations to Afghan control while promoting Rule of Law practices.