Lifting the veil on conflict, culture and politics
If a shopkeeper from Quetta impersonating as a Taliban commander made a mockery of President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to seek reconciliation with the insurgent leadership, a parallel programme to lure away foot soldiers too made little headway last year. A bottom-up reintegration of low to mid-level fighters back into society was meant to complement the top-down approach of seeking a compromise with the leadership. In the event, while there is little sign of any engagement, at least in the public domain ( although it has to be said for a peace process to be meaningful it probably has to be conducted away from the public eye), only a handful of rebels have stepped forward to lay down their weapons.
A year into the reintegration programme, less than 800 insurgents agreed to end the fight, according to Danger Room’s Spencer Ackerman. That makes up for less than 3 percent of the estimated militant strength of 30,000. At this rate it will take a decade to peel away the rank-and file, assuming the overall strength remains constant. More disappointingly, the men who signed up for the programme weren’t even hard core Taliban. They were mostly low-level community-defense forces, Ackerman quotes British Maj.Gen. Phil Jones, the NATO official in charge of enticing the insurgents, as saying.
Most of them were from the relatively peaceful west and north of the country, and not from the south and east where the insurgency is at its deadliest since the war began in 2001. Again, have to enter a caveat that the north has heated up in recent months as well, so the gains perahps shouldn’t be dismissed altogether.
The big problem in the reintegration process is lack of trust, says Jones. The rebels are looking to return to the mainstream with honour and dignity and protection from the Taliban who are sure to seek retribution.. Last year they killed a dozen men who had signed up for the process in the northern province of Baghlan. If the government cannot guarantee protection, and that is not very easy especially in the south, then all its offers of jobs and education will be meaningless.