Afghan Insurgent Reintegration Effort Works, Official Says

WASHINGTON, Feb. 22, 2012 — The Afghanistan Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion Pro­gram, estab­lished and run by Afghans since 2010, resolves griev­ances that lead to fight­ing and deliv­ers peace at a local lev­el, a senior coali­tion offi­cer said today.

British Roy­al Marine Maj. Gen. David A. Hook, who directs the force inte­gra­tion cell for NATO’s Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force, spoke with Pen­ta­gon reporters via video con­fer­ence from ISAF head­quar­ters in the Afghan cap­i­tal of Kab­ul.

The peace pro­gram, which the Afghans imple­ment local­ly but direct and coor­di­nate nation­al­ly, gives insur­gents a chance to leave the bat­tle­field peace­ful­ly and per­ma­nent­ly and rejoin their com­mu­ni­ties with dig­ni­ty and hon­or, Hook said.

“Any coun­terin­sur­gency strat­e­gy includes a non­mil­i­tary solu­tion that reach­es out to insur­gents with the goal of peace­ful rein­te­gra­tion where every­one ben­e­fits,” he added. “This pro­gram ambi­tious­ly seeks to do this and to deliv­er peace at a very local lev­el.”

Rein­te­gra­tion is an essen­tial ele­ment in the com­pre­hen­sive coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign that ISAF Com­man­der Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen is imple­ment­ing, he said. A cor­ner­stone of the local approach, he added, is resolv­ing griev­ances that led peo­ple to fight or become insur­gents in the first place.

“The over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of those fight­ing in the south and oth­er areas are fight­ing for non­ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons,” Hook said. … Address­ing their griev­ances can draw them back into soci­ety.”

An Afghan-led peace pro­gram sup­port­ed by ISAF and the Unit­ed Nations is cen­tral to suc­cess, he added.

“The whole aim of the APRP is to build trust and con­fi­dence amongst peo­ple who have been fight­ing the gov­ern­ment and each oth­er for far too long,” the major gen­er­al said.

The pro­gram has enrolled appli­cants since Octo­ber 2010, and so far has vet­ted — or ver­i­fied that appli­cants are not sim­ply crim­i­nals, but have tak­en up arms against the gov­ern­ment of Afghanistan — near­ly 3,100 for­mer insur­gents. Over time, the vet­ting process has become quite rig­or­ous, Hook said.

“Very ear­ly in the pro­gram, 231 rein­te­grees came into the pro­gram in Sar-e-Pul … before the vet­ting process was prop­er­ly estab­lished,” he explained. All were revet­ted, and 190 were found not to be bona fide insur­gents.

“The key thing here is [that] it is the Afghan gov­ern­ment that runs this dual-vet­ting process and the Afghan gov­ern­ment [that] decides who should and should not enter the pro­gram,” he added.

Those involved in the rein­te­gra­tion process car­ry out the cru­cial work, at dis­trict and vil­lage lev­els, of nego­ti­at­ing with and reach­ing out to insur­gents, tak­ing them through a three-month demo­bi­liza­tion process and rein­te­grat­ing them into their com­mu­ni­ties, Hook said.

“We don’t tend to see indi­vid­u­als com­ing in,” he added. Rather, mid- to low-lev­el lead­ers decide to come into the pro­gram and bring their fight­ers in with them in groups of five to 25. Hook said that 20 per­cent to 25 per­cent of the 3,100 insur­gents in the pro­gram are mid- to low-lev­el lead­ers.

Those accept­ed into the pro­gram receive a tran­si­tion­al allowance of $120 a month for three months — an amount the Afghan gov­ern­ment cal­cu­lat­ed would allow a man to feed a fam­i­ly of six in Kab­ul dur­ing demo­bi­liza­tion train­ing.

“Once you get to the end of demo­bi­liza­tion, you become a nor­mal cit­i­zen of Afghanistan, and beyond that, there is no promise that you indi­vid­u­al­ly will be reward­ed,” Hook said. “This is where you see the pow­er of an Afghan-designed sys­tem, because the pro­gram focus­es on the vil­lage that accepts the rein­te­gree back.”

An indi­vid­ual who goes back to his com­mu­ni­ty asks for for­give­ness, Hook explained. In 99 per­cent of cas­es, the com­mu­ni­ty takes the per­son back and com­mu­ni­ty and indi­vid­ual are locked togeth­er under the Pash­tun­wali Code, an unwrit­ten eth­i­cal code and tra­di­tion­al lifestyle fol­lowed by indige­nous Pash­tun peo­ple from Afghanistan and Pak­istan.

“The indi­vid­ual has been accept­ed back and been for­giv­en, so he now is respon­si­ble for his behav­ior to the com­mu­ni­ty,” Hook said. The com­mu­ni­ty then ben­e­fits by being eli­gi­ble for grants of $25,000 or $200,000. The mon­ey is used to improve the com­mu­ni­ty.

The acts of accep­tance and com­mu­ni­ty improve­ment “lock the indi­vid­ual and the com­mu­ni­ty togeth­er in a way that makes recidi­vism incred­i­bly low,” the major gen­er­al added.

“To date,” he said, “we’re track­ing between five and sev­en who we’ve iden­ti­fied as [prob­a­ble] recidi­vists, and anoth­er 20 to 25 who we think might be.”

In a pro­gram like this, he added, “30 peo­ple being recidi­vists out of 3,100 is an incred­i­bly low num­ber.”

ISAF sup­ports the rein­te­gra­tion pro­gram at sev­er­al lev­els, Hook said, through var­i­ous branch­es of the Joint Sec­re­tari­at.

“We have a very close rela­tion­ship,” he added. “And whilst the joint sec­re­tari­at is build­ing its own capac­i­ty, … we pro­vide some extra capac­i­ty to help them devel­op ideas.”

In the mean­time, he said, offi­cials are work­ing to more ful­ly under­stand the dynam­ics.

“We’re try­ing to under­stand the rela­tion­ship between the surge, the weath­er and the peo­ple who want to give up fight­ing because they’ve had enough, and those peo­ple who are rein­te­grat­ing,” Hook said.

“It’s more than just under­stand­ing 3,100 [rein­te­grat­ed] insur­gents,” he said. “It’s try­ing to under­stand a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors and decon­struct­ing which bit is con­tribut­ing to a safer envi­ron­ment in the area where it’s occur­ring.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)