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Disarmament and Reintegration in Afghanistan

Kabul/Brussels, 30 September 2003: As Afghanistan embarks on an ambitious program to demobilise large numbers commanders and fighters, greater international engagement in the process is essential. This disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DR) process must succeed if the shattered country is ever to achieve an acceptable level of stability

In anticipation of the Afghanistan New Beginnings Program (ANBP), the UN plan for DR set to begin in late October 2003, the International Crisis Group publishes its latest report, Disarmament and Reintegration in Afghanistan,* underlining the link between DR and the country’s political viability and social cohesion.

"Without a credible DR process in Afghanistan", said Robert Templer, Director of ICG's Asia Program, "it is inconceivable that any of the key elements of the political process agreed at the Bonn conference in late 2001 – including the adoption of a new constitution, judicial reform, and elections – can be meaningfully implemented".

The new report identifies three main components of a successful DR process for Afghanistan: active involvement of an international security force, significant economic incentives, and an understanding of Afghan militia command structures.

For DR to be implemented successfully, the country-wide presence of a neutral armed force is essential. The new Afghan National Army (ANA) has too few trained battalions for this, and its lack of ethnic balance also limits its utility. This is another reason why it is so important for the UN Security Council to authorise NATO, which now has responsibility for the international security force in Kabul, to move out to the main provincial centres, where it can assist in DR implementation.

Reintegration of troops now affiliated with units that have been formally recognised by the ministry of defence is complicated by several factors, including the fact that low and irregular pay has already led to the partial demobilisation of many. But removing them definitively from their command structures means providing them opportunities for sustainable employment. Careful attention needs to be paid to market demand for particular skills in different regions, as well as the potential for industrial and rural development in the various regions.

Understanding local militia structures is also critical if the process is to avoid being co-opted from within the ministry of defence and the army corps command – either by using DR as a vehicle for patronage or by selectively disarming and demobilising rivals. The ANBP can only be insured against such an outcome if it has its own access to independent prior field research.

"Greater international commitment across the country remains the essential ingredient to successful DR and, ultimately, to a stable Afghanistan", said Mr Templer.

Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 485 555 946 [email protected]
Jennifer Leonard (Washington) +1-202-785 1601
*Read the Report in full on our website: http://www.crisisweb.org/

The International Crisis Group (ICG) is an independent, non-profit, multinational organisation, with over 90 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

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