Surrendered fighters abandon peace process
After surrendering to join the peace process, former armed opponents of the government have again picked up arms.
Since 2011, some 4,081 armed fighters took advantage of the privileges offered by the government to join the peace process in the western zone, according to provincial peace committees. Their biometrics were also recorded.
While the largest numbers of surrendered fighters were from Herat (1,332), 317 were from Ghor and 18 from Badghis.
Now Killid has documents to prove that a Taliban commander called Sakhi Kalang who had laid down his arms in 2011 has returned to the war front as an important militant commander in Herat. Similarly, as many as 1,350 former armed fighters have rejoined anti-government groups; some 300 in Herat, 600 in Badghis, 150 in Farah and 300 in Ghor province.
Officials in the provincial peace committees blame the situation chiefly on the government's indifference, acute shortage of employment, and cuts in promised financial assistance.
Yama Amini, head of the secretariat of the provincial peace committee of Herat province, estimates 1,332 armed opponents joined the peace process for the sake of financial privileges. Some 300 other applications were rejected for the applicant's involvement in criminal activities and not having weapons.
Amini says 8,000 Afs (112 USD) was promised to each armed individual and 13,000 Afs (183 USD) to every commander every month for up to six months. Some were even enlisted in development projects in their regions.
According to Amini, 481 developmental projects valued at 13 million USD were implemented through the cooperation of the ministries of agriculture, economy, rural development and rehabilitation as well as provincial peace committee. The goal was job creation for those joining the peace process.
Some 11 projects valued at 300,000 USD were implemented by the peace committee. But when the financial aid ended, Amini says some 300 armed opponents including 14 commanders rejoined the armed anti-government forces. Also, there has been a definite decline in interest among militants to surrender to the government.
He believes the loss of interest is the result of the changed strategy of the High Peace Council, cut in government aid, military and political support of armed opponents by other countries.
Jailani Farhad, spokesperson for the Herat governor, also blames the peace committee for the war that is still going on in some districts of the province. Farhad had promised to end the war.
Meanwhile in Badghis, 1,800 armed anti-government fighters had joined the peace process. Their biometrics were taken.
Abdul Khaleq Achekzai, head of the provincial peace committee, says 32 developmental projects have been launched, and roughly one million USD has been distributed.
According to Achekzai, security threats against the men and the cut in financial aid have led to 600 former fighters rejoining anti-government forces. And in the last two years, not even one armed fighter has surrendered to join the peace process.
Yet Sharafudin Majidi, deputy governor of Badghis province believes the strategy to woo armed fighters has been effective in improving the security situation in the province. He appealed for more funds for the programme, and more job opportunities for surrendered militants.
Authorities in the provincial peace committee say 317 armed fighters had joined the peace process over the past seven years. Amir Mohammad Ayubi, head of the committee, says 130,000 USD was spent to create short-term job opportunities and on salaries for surrendered fighters. However, 150 of the men have rejoined anti-government forces. And like in Badghis no one has laid down arms and joined the peace process in the last two years.
There's a blame game on between peace committee and local administration officials with neither willing to accept responsibility for the indifference of armed fighters to the peace process. Naser Mehri, the governor's spokesperson, insists the local administration is continuing to meet with tribal leaders and encourage anti-government fighters to join the peace process.
Kamaludin Mawdoodi, head of the provincial peace committee here told Killid that 36 armed groups comprising 632 individuals had been lured to join the peace efforts with the promise of money. While commanders were paid 13,000 Afs (183 USD), subordinates received 8,000 Afs (112 USD).
According to Mawdoodi, 150,000 USD has been spent on this programme.
However, at least 300 fighters-turned-peaceniks have returned to the side of anti-government armed forces after claiming the privileges.
Abdul Hai Khatibi, the provincial governor's spokesperson, feels this strategy has not improved the security situation despite the many rounds of meetings to persuade the armed fighters to surrender their weapons. Other critics blame the government for not keeping its promises on job creation. Ferozodin, a member of Sakhi Kolang, one of the commanders' groups, says he has fought Afghan forces for four years in Pashtoon Zarghoon district of Herat province. He says that he has joined the peace process for the sake of improving the security situation without getting any privileges.
Killid has been given access to documents that the armed opponents have handed over including some very old weapons. Some 585 of the 2,990 surrendered arms are very old. The province has collected the most arms after Herat.
Kamaludin Mawdoodi, head of peace committee in Ghor, says that the armed anti-government forces have handed over 800 different types of weaponry but 200 of these were old and not useable.