In Afghanistan, rule of law projects have placed a heavy emphasis on rebuilding courts and law enforcement institutions. Little attention has been given to the critical element of defence, particularly criminal defence services for the poor. Yet, without defence lawyers, there can be no rule of law. This article examines the right to counsel in Afghanistan and the indispensable role that defence lawyers are playing in the development of the justice system, illustrated by the experience of the International Legal Foundation. By providing early and effective representation to their clients, lawyers ensure that Afghanistan’s new laws and constitutional provisions protecting the rights of the accused are implemented.