Afghanistan Legal Lessons Learned: Army Rule of Law Operations

Document Type



One of the most crucial components of the 2002 National Security Strategy which will impact virtually all other components is the world-wide implementation of the rule of law. In furtherance of the Strategy, National Security Presidential Directive 44 was issued in late 2005 and states that it is U.S. policy to work with other countries towards effective implementation of the rule of law. The Directive tasks the Secretaries of State and Defense with coordinating rule of law efforts and with integrating them into military contingency plans. Consequently, by direction of the President, the military has a key role to play in implementing the rule of law and Judge Advocates must be prepared to lead these efforts. Commanders look to Judge Advocates with the expectation that they will be competent and innovative in implementing the unit's rule of law mission. This is clearly demonstrated by the Center for Law and Military Operations' publication of the Rule of Law Handbook: A Practitioner's Guide for Judge Advocates, where a "constantly re-occurring theme" is that "the command naturally turns to the legal expert within the task force to plan, execute, coordinate, and evaluate rule of law efforts." Over six years of operations in Afghanistan, commanders have relied on JAs in their rule of law operations. These operations have created a number of lessons learned; this paper will highlight three: 1) Rule of law operations must be totally integrated into all phases and aspects of military operations and the unit mission; 2) U.S. Army Rule of Law efforts must be completely coordinated and synchronized with other rule of law efforts, especially those of the host nation, and must recognize what role the military is organizationally qualified to fill; 3) Military rule of law operations must be effects-based.

General Notes

Reprinted in 39 Israel Yearbook on Human Rights 261.


85 Naval War C. Int'l L. Stud.

Publication Title

Naval War College International Law Studies