Afghanistan’s Failed Reintegration  (Page 3 of 3)

In Congo, international donors fund a UN organization called D-D Triple R (Demobilization, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement, and Reintegration) that broadcasts messages to combatants via radio and works closely with UN peacekeepers, the Congolese military, and the Catholic Church to receive former fighters and mediate their return to their communities.

No such infrastructure exists in Afghanistan—and might never. It’s axiomatic in the country that Kabul is incapable of effectively influencing development and governance at the local level, where almost all reintegration would take place. ISAF’s entire development strategy for Afghanistan hinges on ‘connect(ing) people to their government,’ says 1st Lt. Heiko Deriese, a US Army ‘civil-military operations’ officer in Logar. If those connections already existed, ISAF wouldn’t be so focused on building them.

But there’s another, equally likely explanation for the lack of reintegration more than a year after the current initiative was launched. It’s possible that insurgents just aren’t interested in rejoining peaceful society for the same reasons they picked up their weapons in the first place—whether those reasons are religious, sectarian, or economic.

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That Kabul is interested in making peace with opposition fighters doesn’t mean the fighters are interested in peace with Kabul. That’s a problem the Afghan National Security Forces recognize. While Stanekzai plots—however ineffectively—for reintegration, the Afghan army and police are planning to continue finding and fighting insurgents, even after ISAF has left.

Afghan vs. Afghan

After a decade of training and nearly $30 billion in international investment, ISAF’s long-standing goal of improving Afghan’s security forces is finally bearing fruit. As US and allied troops stage their slow withdrawal starting this summer, Afghan troops will steadily expand their control.

A day after Khalili’s speech in Mazar-i-Sharif, Karzai made his own New Year address. In it, he announced that most of Kabul, plus all of Panjshi and Bamiyan provinces and the cities of Herat and Lashkar Gah, would begin transitioning to full Afghan control in the coming months, with Afghan troops in the lead across Afghanistan by 2014.

Transition to Afghan control doesn’t mean the full departure of ISAF troops. Washington anticipates an end to its major combat operations in Afghanistan around the same time Afghan forces assume full control, but US troops will likely remain in supporting roles. Brig. Gen. Muhammad Sadiq, commander of the 4th Brigade, 203rd Corps, based in Logar, says he relies on ISAF for engineering and air support.

Other than that, ‘we are able to do every kind of operation,’ Sadiq boasts. He cited an incident last month when his brigade received a tip about insurgents in Logar and quickly launched an operation that killed nine enemy fighters.

‘The (Afghan) army here is very capable,’ says US Army Capt. Paul Rothlisberger, until recently the commander of forces in Logar’s Baraki Barak district. ‘They’re capable, they can communicate, they can provide security, and their leaders plan pretty well.’

With reintegration stalled, and Afghan security forces growing in capability and in confidence, the stage is set not for a peaceful resolution to the conflict, but its continuation in a slightly different form. In all likelihood, the only true difference between Afghanistan in 2014 and Afghanistan in 2011 is that with fewer ISAF troops on the ground, Afghans will be doing even more of the dying.

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