General: Afghan Reintegration Program Will Take Time

WASHINGTON, Dec. 8, 2011 — Per­ma­nent­ly remov­ing insur­gents from the fight and rein­te­grat­ing them into their Afghan com­mu­ni­ties is a grad­ual process that will take time, the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force offi­cer direct­ing coali­tion sup­port to that Afghan-led effort said today.

British Roy­al Marine Maj. Gen. David Hook, direc­tor of ISAF’s Force Rein­te­gra­tion cell, briefed Pen­ta­gon reporters today by video link from Kab­ul, Afghanistan.

The Afghan Peace and Rein­te­gra­tion pro­gram has so far helped 2,970 for­mer insur­gents rejoin Afghan soci­ety, Hook not­ed, and is work­ing with anoth­er 1,200 fight­ers who rep­re­sent “rein­te­gra­tion opportunities.”

While the pro­gram is nation­wide and direct­ed by the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Kab­ul, he added, it is imple­ment­ed at the dis­trict and provin­cial lev­el through­out Afghanistan. Most rein­te­grat­ed for­mer fight­ers, he said, have come from the nation’s north­ern and west­ern provinces, but num­bers in the south­ern and east­ern areas are increas­ing slowly.

“A cor­ner­stone of this local approach is the res­o­lu­tion of griev­ances that led peo­ple to fight in the first place,” Hook said. “If you accept the premise that 80 per­cent of the men fight­ing in the south are fight­ing for non­ide­o­log­i­cal rea­sons — and our analy­sis of why they have stopped fight­ing sup­ports this — it becomes clear that if you can address their griev­ances, you can draw them back into soci­ety. You then make the oth­er 20 per­cent less relevant.”

The pro­gram aims to build trust and con­fi­dence among peo­ple who have been fight­ing the gov­ern­ment and each oth­er for many years, the gen­er­al said, in a process that “engages polit­i­cal, social and reli­gious lead­ers at every lev­el so that Afghans can build peace, if nec­es­sary, vil­lage by village.”

The require­ment that for­mer insur­gents apol­o­gize to their vil­lages essen­tial­ly forms a com­pact between those fight­ers and their fel­low Afghans, Hook said, adding he attrib­ut­es the program’s low recidi­vism rate — five of near­ly 3,000 rein­te­grees — to that bond. “He has asked for for­give­ness from his com­mu­ni­ty, and his com­mu­ni­ty has for­giv­en him, and it locks them togeth­er in this con­tract,” Hook said.

Hook told reporters he want­ed to dis­pel myths that have grown up around the rein­te­gra­tion pro­gram. Insur­gents aren’t paid to stop fight­ing, he said, though they receive a three-month tran­si­tion­al allowance if they take part in dis­en­gage­ment train­ing. And, insur­gents are not immune to pros­e­cu­tion, Hook added, not­ing they can expect no com­pro­mise on human rights vio­la­tions, par­tic­u­lar­ly the rights of women.

Hook called rein­te­gra­tion an essen­tial com­po­nent in ISAF’s coun­terin­sur­gency cam­paign. In a let­ter to troops upon tak­ing com­mand of ISAF forces in July, Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen talked about the impor­tance of rein­te­gra­tion and about “main­tain­ing unre­lent­ing pres­sure on the insur­gency,” he said. “Ulti­mate­ly, this pres­sure gives the insur­gent a choice: to be killed, to be cap­tured or to reintegrate.”

Four fac­tors are con­verg­ing to increase the program’s momen­tum, Hook said. The past year’s troop surge has decreased the insurgency’s capa­bil­i­ty, he said, and inter­na­tion­al and Afghan sup­port for rein­te­gra­tion is increas­ing. Third, the pro­gram itself is expand­ing and improv­ing out­reach capa­bil­i­ty, he added, and many insur­gent fight­ers — fac­ing anoth­er win­ter, when their lead­ers typ­i­cal­ly relo­cate — are tired.

“I’m not say­ing the process is per­fect; there are still issues to be addressed. But the Afghans are deliv­er­ing and fix­ing issues as they arise,” Hook said. 

“You have a gath­er­ing nation­al momen­tum towards peace,” he added. “Ulti­mate­ly, I believe … [there is] a favor­able set of cir­cum­stances that will enable this pro­gram to progress. The chal­lenge is tak­ing all of those pieces and using them to lever­age the pro­gram, and this is where Afghan lead­er­ship is essen­tial. With strong lead­er­ship over the win­ter, this pro­gram will gain greater momentum.” 

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

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