Twelve years after Operation Enduring Freedom was launched by the US to wrest power from the Taliban and bring freedom to the Afghans, it appears that the banished Taliban is again gaining footholds of power in Afghanistan. In the rural parts at least, America’s mission in giving all Afghans enduring freedom has failed miserably. More and more Afghans are flocking to the Taliban not because they hate democracy, not because they love the extremist ideals the Taliban embrace, but because they are not receiving one of the basic amenities expected in free civilizations, justice.

In Kunar, an eastern province, BBC journalists interviewed several men who were dealing with serious criminal cases. One had two brothers murdered and the other had four family members killed over a land dispute. Both recounted how the local “legitimate” justice systems operated purely on bribes. The judges possessed a total lack of higher calling and ruled in favor of whoever bribed him the most. In some cases, the judges would not even listen to cases if there was no upfront bribe involved. The Taliban, on the other hand, immediately stepped in and restored justice to the community. Cases ignored by the local judicial systems were solved within a week by the Taliban courts. In many cases, those who were shammed by the local authorities swore allegiance to the Taliban.

Although they used the harsh, borderline barbaric Sharia law, the Taliban at least enforced punishments on those who broke the laws. Order, however oppressive, was a blessing for Afghan civilians compared to the randomness that had reigned previously in the rural areas. Justice is essential for any civilization to operate. It is an integral component of social interactions between people, a fundamental principle underlying every political process, economic transaction, and moral expectation. In the Old Testament, although God was not compassionate, at least not as compassionate as in the New Testament, He at least was just. The Magna Carta, which stated that even the ruler was not above justice, was a groundbreaking document that set the stage for the success of democracy in the West.

As the Taliban grows more and more powerful in these far, out-of-reach places, they are able to wrest control from the Americans and federal Afghan government under the control of President Hamid Karzai. As they gain power, the Taliban are able to launch more attacks, thereby compromising the security of these remote provinces and discouraging government-appointed magistrates from operating there. This subsequently renders Karzai powerless. He cannot supply legitimate federal judges to counteract the Taliban judicial system’s edge over the local judicial systems. Therefore, it seems that Afghanistan is a downhill battle for control over the people for the US and Karzai.

It is important to bear in mind that even though the Taliban do offer quick and effective justice, their strict enforcement of Sharia laws still leaves something to be desired. Formed in ancient times, many of the Sharia laws are unjust by today’s standards. By discriminating against women, non-Muslims, and LGBTs among others, the Taliban’s enforcement of Sharia laws provides only a slight improvement over disorder. The Sharia laws might bring some justice, but they are more or less a travesty by Western democracies’ standards. To bring proper freedom to the Afghans, the West must eliminate both the disorder and the Taliban’s strict enforcement of Sharia laws.

Winning the war in Afghanistan, or at least accomplishing the objective of enduring freedom, will require more than simple force. The United States will need to establish trust between the Afghan government under Karzai and the people the Karzai administration will govern. In order to completely remove Taliban influence, we will need to learn the basic reasons why they are more appealing to local citizens than the Karzai government. The Afghan civilians are not anti-American by nature. Instead, it is because we are failing to provide them with their basic rights that they are flocking to and thereby strengthening the Taliban. Justice is the biggest right that they lack that is crucial for the Americans to restore to them as soon as possible.