More than 70 people, of whom many were lawyers, gathered in the Campus Center to examine the reconstruction of Afghanistan and the United States’ role in the rebuilding process.
The second half of the Afghanistan symposium was a panel discussion titled “Phase and Priorities of Reconstruction.” The subjects discussed were law, economics and humanitarianism.
“What they are trying to do here is write a list of protocols for leaders to apply when they get involved in other countries,” said panelist David Last.
The four panelists included justice program manager Grey Maggiano; legal educator Jonathan Eddy; U.S District Judge David Carter; and Last, professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada.
Each of the panelists presented the audience with a different view of the current situation in Afghanistan.
“It needs to be an Afghanistan built by Afghanis to their taste,” Last said.
The goal of the symposium was to gather lawyers with knowledge of international laws to create a set of principles that governments can use prior to getting involved and taking action.
Maggiano, from the International Narcotics and Law enforcement Affairs, was the spoke first.
He explained that the three reasons law has to be at the forefront of the reconstruction of Afghanistan are actually challenges in the reconstruction of the country.
Land rights are the first challenge because no one is aware of how the land is distributed. Water rights because at any time someone can block the path to someone’s water supply and lastly corruption which has led the people to distrust the government.
INL’s role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan was creating the major crimes task force.
“The major crimes task force was created to look into the issues of high crimes, such as corruption, major crimes, and kidnapping,” Maggiano said.
INL has done a lot of the police training in Afghanistan, a country whose main source of money comes from the distribution of opium and poppy, which weakens the countries economy because none of that money is taxed.
“As we push for short term steps were mindful of long term impacts,” Maggiano said.
Eddy manages a program that brings Afghani law students to the U.S so they can be educators when they return to their country.
Eddy explained to the audience that the program has accomplished two out of three of its objectives, but fell short on their objective to engage women equally with men.
The program has had some engagement, but it has been very difficult.
“In my opinion it’s probably the most central issue facing Afghanistan in terms of its evolution into a more just society,” Eddy said.
He described his work in Afghanistan as being the most complex and difficult thing he has encountered.
Eddy went on to explain how the reconstruction of Afghanistan was similar to that of a car.
“It’s like rebuilding a Model T that’s been sitting in the field and expecting it to run with the Ferraris,” Eddy said.
Carter was the third panelist and he presented the audience with a series of PowerPoint slides on Afghanistan, and his own experiences there.
“Regardless of the lines drawn, 20 percent of the people who live in some of these areas don’t believe they are a part of a country,” Carter said.
Carter explained that the lines of division drawn in the Middle East by the British have no meaning to the Afghanistan people.
Carter explained the three current legal systems in Afghanistan and Kabul which include the sharia, and the most prevalent in the tribal areas.
“The battle field is going to happen in the tribal areas,” Carter said.
Carter emphasized that the reconstruction of Afghanistan would take quite a bit of cultural sensitivity argued for the empowerment of women, which was argued by some of the Afghan audience members who questioned how this might be achieved.
The final panelist was Last, but due to time constraints his portion was mostly a question and answer session.
An audience member asked, “How culturally insensitive are we?”
Last explained that it varies, but he has seen those who have knowledge of Islam, and the laws, and those who do not.
“There is no end state if we are lucky then like the constitutional discussions in Canada we’ll just keep getting to do it over and over again,” Last answered.
Education major Brittany Lokar said that it was really great to have the symposium on the La Verne campus.
“I was really interested in what experts had to say being that reconstruction in Afghanistan is at a stand-still,” Lokar said.
Tiffany Chung, a law student from La Verne’s Ontario campus, attended the symposium because her professor recommended it.
“It’s really good because I’m getting more perspective from different areas instead of just my professor,” Chung said.
Michael Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.