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Taliban re-integration plan proposed

http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100117/NEWS/1170317/-1/NEWSMAP

excerpts:

The Afghan government is crafting a plan to offer jobs, vocational training and other economic incentives to tens of thousands of Taliban foot soldiers willing to switch sides after eight years of war.

Officials hope the multimillion-dollar initiative, which would reach out to 20,000 to 35,000 low- to mid-level Taliban insurgents, will succeed where past programs have failed. Skeptics, though, wonder whether significant numbers of militants will stop fighting when they believe they’re winning.

…Details of the program have not been worked out. But Stanekzai said that in addition to protection, insurgents willing to join the reintegration program will be given access to jobs mainly through new or existing community development programs and industrial projects across the country.

“Vocational training also should be combined with a de-radicalization process,” Stanekzai said. “They have been trained and brainwashed by very radical religious leaders.”

Abdul Salam Zaeef, former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, said there is no economic solution to quelling the insurgency.

“It is not possible to separate Taliban fighters from leadership,” he said. “Those who come to the government will come only for money. They are not real Taliban. The government wants to buy people with the reintegration program. This is a kind of corruption.”

Early estimates say the program will cost at least $600,000 and could approach $1 billion in the first three years, depending on how many Taliban decide to give up their AK-47s for legal employment, Stanekzai said.

Some former insurgents may receive stipends to help them get back on their feet in society, but the thrust of the program centers on community development. according to international officials familiar with the program. Village elders will vouch for insurgents who give up and the international community will work to send development money into those areas with the idea that the money would benefit entire communities.

The program will be partially backed by USAID and money from a fund that enables U.S. commanders to dole out cash for short-term humanitarian projects. Donor nations are expected to pledge additional funds, earmarked specifically for reintegration, as early as the London conference.

Getting the Taliban’s top echelon to the negotiating table is a tough sell. Taliban leaders say they won’t even consider reconciliation talks until foreign troops leave the country, and right now, 37,000 more U.S. and NATO reinforcements are being sent to the war.

…Afghan expert Michael Semple, who has negotiated with mid-level Taliban commanders before, said there are pragmatists in the insurgent network, including some who sit on Omar’s 10-member council, but that their voices are weak.

“There are pragmatists, who understand that a continuation of the conflict will only cause more destruction. They can be persuaded to talk,” said Semple, a fellow at Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy.

“Forget the notion of defeating the insurgents,” Semple said. “What you have to do is persuade them that there is no possibility of the regime collapsing and in a war of attrition they don’t win. The next step is to find someone with whom the Taliban, including Omar, will talk.”

Any talks without Omar will yield only piecemeal peace pacts with Taliban who have no authority over the bulk of the fighters, said Muttawakil and another former Taliban minister, Arsala Rahmani.

by teru kuwayama at 2010-01-18 18:46:08 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

http://www.rferl.org/content/Kabuls_Taliban_Reconciliation_Strategy_Gains_Momentum/1928802.html

excerpts:

…Senior Afghan officials have unveiled a plan to reconcile with up to 35,000 Taliban insurgents by offering jobs and vocational training, in the hope that the scheme will gain traction in the lead-up to a major international conference on Afghanistan in London later this month.

Elements of the plan, which could cost more than $1 billion to see through, were discussed during a one-day summit in Abu Dhabi on January 12.

Richard Holbrooke, the United States’ special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, attended the event along with those two states’ foreign ministers. But perhaps most welcome was the presence of foreign ministers from Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the participation of high-level representatives of several major Arab nations.

…The West, while wary of dealing with hardline Taliban allied to Al-Qaeda, is keen on replicating the success found in buying off Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

The Karzai administration, meanwhile, is aware that previous plans failed to achieve broad backing from within the various factions that dominate large swathes of the political spectrum.

Previous attempts by Kabul failed to convince major Taliban field commanders to defect. And its past attempts to negotiate with the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar eventually broke down after much hype.

…But Abdul Hakim Mujahid, who formerly served as a Taliban representative to the United Nations, says robust diplomatic efforts still are needed for such a plan to succeed.

In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, he praises Kabul’s recent efforts to remove some moderate Taliban leaders from the UN sanctions list, but called for a “transparent” policy for dealing with the group.

“The Afghan government first needs to take into confidence foreign forces as they brace for negotiations with the Taliban or other opponents,” he says. “The Afghan government, the foreigners, the U.S. government in particular, should work on a transparent policy that has clear goals and strategy. I believe that if the Afghan government and its foreign backers can coordinate on this, we will see progress."

Mujahid, who claims to be no longer associated with the Taliban, argues that the Afghan government needs to first formally recognize the Taliban movement and allow it to operate peacefully within the political arena.

He called on the Afghan government to free Taliban prisoners from Bagram Prison and those detained at the United States’ facility at Guantanamo, and to remove their names from UN sanctions lists. “This will create an atmosphere of trust,” he said.

by teru kuwayama | 19 Jan 2010 17:01 (ed. Jan 19 2010) | Palo Alto, California, United States | | Report spam→

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