Stillwater News Press

February 1, 2010

From Afghanistan: Pay Taliban fighters to quit?

Taliban reconciliation and reintegration talks on

By Col. Gregory Breazile
Stillwater NewsPress

— If you are talking about Afghanistan these days you will probably hear the terms reconciliation and reintegration being discussed. 

The fact is that many in the international community believe the only way to peace in Afghanistan is through these two efforts. 

Reconciliation allows for Taliban leaders to stop fighting, with amnesty from future prosecution, while reintegration allows the individual Taliban fighter to lay down his arms and become a productive member of the Afghan society. 

There has been much debate over the possibility of reconciliation and reintegration and the government of Afghanistan is actually asking the international community to support these measures. 

The goal is to entice the Taliban fighters to live normal lives and provide them with opportunities for employment without retribution for their past actions.  The fact is that many polls show most Taliban fighters are primarily supporting the effort for financial reasons and not some deep rooted religious beliefs.

Therefore, having the ability to offer another more peaceful way of life will be enticing to many of these fighters.

The goal will be to reintegrate large numbers of Taliban back into their society.  According to the international press, NATO officials are targeting anywhere from 25,000 to 30,000 Taliban fighters for reintegration into the regular population.  

Another reality is that most of these fighters are illiterate, which complicates the situation since many of these people have been manipulated and threatened to remain with the Taliban. Educating those who reintegrate will be a major chore for the Afghan government since these people must have minimal reading skills to perform many of life's tasks.  

This reintegration program is a complicated effort because systems must be established to ensure these former Taliban are paid and have opportunities to bring them home.

If the pay system has serious problems then these former fighters may become disillusioned and believe that they were lied to by the government.

Systems must be established and mature enough to handle grievances for this effort to work and ensure the former Taliban are paid in a timely manner. 

While this sounds easy enough there are some who would say these fighters do not deserve amnesty for their actions. 

Some critics of this program believe this effort would be bribing the Taliban not to fight but others claim it's much less costly than losing lives in battle.

Regardless of what people think about the reconciliation and reintegration effort there is no doubt the goal is to improve the life of the average Afghan and that must include measures to end the insurgency and establish a stable government.

Peace will be hard fought and extremely difficult to achieve without efforts like reconciliation and reintegration.

We must deplete the ranks of the Taliban fighters by providing them an opportunity to come home and live a normal life. Reconciliation and reintegration will be a major step in that direction.

Col. Gregory Breazile is the director of communication, NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan/Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. He is a combat veteran with 26 years of Marine Corps service. He is a Stillwater native.