Rule of Law Field Operations

ROLFF-A Gets a Boost from NATO

By Jack Goldsmith
Thursday, June 9, 2011, 9:46 AM

Defense Ministers from the 48 nations of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) today endorsed the NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission (NROLFSM).  The press release describes the mission as follows:

Governance and service delivery in Afghanistan remain key to ensure security gains are sustainable. Difficult terrain and insecurity pose challenges to lawyers, judges and other justice sector officials from fully accessing remote communities.  The Taliban have exploited this by setting up their own courts.  While Afghans disagree with the harsh punishments of the Taliban, they often find this ‘extreme justice’ their sole recourse for injustice.  The redress of grievances is one of the few areas where the insurgency continues to compete with legitimate governance.

Consistent with the comprehensive civilian-military approach and ISAF’s counterinsurgency strategy, ISAF will provide greater field support to rule of law efforts, as requested by the Afghan authorities and when desired by international providers.  The NATO Rule of Law Field Support Mission (NROLFSM) will have the following mission:

To provide essential field capabilities, liaison and security to Afghan and international civilian providers of technical assistance supportive of building the Afghan criminal justice capacity, increasing access to dispute resolution, thereby helping to improve the efficacy of the Afghan Government.

This NATO action appears to be a response to Secretary of Defense Gate’s critical speech at the NATO meeting in March.  It is an endorsement of COIN strategy in general, and of the efforts of the Rule of Law Field Force – Afghanistan (ROLFF-A), in particular.  (General Mark Martins, who leads ROLFF-A, and who will also command the dual-hat NROLFSM, blogged about ROLFF-A here.)  And while I am speaking beyond my expertise, NROLFSM also appears to be a somewhat new role for an alliance formed on the basis of mutual defense to armed attack.