Afghanistan is a country that has been ravaged by years of war and internal strife, all of which threatened the very existence of the nation. In the past 30 years alone, Afghanistan has faced two long drawn-out conflicts that damaged its international image and caused the country to overstretch its resources. In 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan but was later forced to withdraw its troops, leaving the Afghan people to face serious implications. Militant groups, such as the Taliban, emerged under the banner of protecting the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. What followed next was an oppressive regime mainly controlled by the Taliban and harboring Islamic extremists who had declared war on the West. In fact, intelligence in the United States and other Western nations believed that the Taliban provided a refuge for terrorists, such as Al-Qaida and their leader Osama Bin Laden. AIDitionally, the Taliban group imposed oppressive Islamic rules and penalties on the people of Afghanistan, such as public stoning and executions in stadiums. It was after the attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, that the country found itself drawn into another war that was to last for over eleven years. The United States troops jointly with a coalition of forces invaded Afghanistan in an effort to capture or kill Osama bin Laden and install democracy for the people of Afghanistan. However, the war lingered on without any hope of lasting peace. What have remained are incoherent terrorist attacks in the form of suicide bombing and surprise attacks.
In pursuit of peace, the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP) was drafted to help the nation recover from the protracted turmoil. The APRP was jointly developed by the Afghan government, militant insurgents, the United States government and other like-minded stakeholders. The program seeks to bring the people of Afghanistan together and reintegrate the nation into a solitary unified front. This paper evaluates the origins and goals of the program, envisioned reintegration process and other important aspects of the program.
Background of the Program
Wars are a hard thing to end, as warring parties need to ensure that they do not appear to have lost the war. This situation was put into perspective with the drafting of the APRP. Bhatia argues that most recent wars ended by negotiated settlements and peace treaties. Recent data suggests that only 10 percent of all wars between 1950 and 1989 were ended by non-violent means and negotiated settlement. This proportion has since jumped to about 39 percent of all armed conflicts ended through negotiated settlements. A different assertion states that wars ending in peace treaties took longer to be reignited as compared to those that ended in military victories. According to Derkesen, wars ending in military victories took an average of two years to be restarted. In contrast, conflicts ending in negotiated settlements take an average of five years to reoccur. As the available data suggests, negotiated settlements would be the only plausible course of action for a long drawn-out war that does not appear to come to an end.
There is also strong evidence suggesting that vast benefits can be derived from negotiated settlements. Fischer asserts that negotiated settlements provide an opportunity for integration and cohesive measures to be put in place. It allows for a reunification process that will bring together people initially divided by wars based on ethnic or tribal definitions. A case in point was a reconciliation committee set up by the Republic of South Africa. Other methods have also proved usefulness of such retribution mechanisms as international criminal courts in Rwanda and Yugoslavia.
The case of Afghanistan has been under review in several institutions, such as Swiss Peace and the Center for Justice and Reconciliation. Several organizations concerned with the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan have proposed a negotiated settlement since late 2008. The Afghan government commissioned a report to evaluate and explore a possible direction that the war might take, as well as a possible solution. It was cited in the report that a political solution was perhaps the only solution that would have ended the war. Towards early November of the same year, Jones asserts, the Afghan government held talks with the Taliban in Saudi Arabia. Other concerned parties, such as the United States, applauded the efforts by the warring parties to come to round table talks. The APRP was later drafted through such talks and ratified by the National Assembly. Through the United Nations, the international community agreed to the program at a conference held in Kabul in July 2010.
Aims of the Program
The APRP’s primary goal was to attain peace in Afghanistan in three basic steps. The steps envisaged by the developers of the program included disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (IDR). A particular emphasis of the program was placed on helping combatants integrate back into civilian life. The IDR process was employed by nearly 30 nations during the Cold War era and succeeded in the majority of cases. Other kinds of integrations have been introduced by transforming combatants in joined armed forces of the government, such as the police and the military.
Prior to the program, the Afghan government had taken measures to implement IDR in the precepts of integration and national cohesion. From 2003 to 2006, a similar program called the Afghanistan New Beginnings Program (ANBP) was carried out in Afghanistan. It was sponsored by the United Nations and aimed at integrating militants into the government. Thus, about 63,000 Afghanistan peace and reintegration program militias, who had assisted in bringing down the Taliban regime, were integrated into government forces. However, concerns arose over the program, as the militia seem to have suffered ego issues and lack of confidence in the government.
IDR is a process defined by the APRP as a means of achieving peace. Among the key issues proposed is disarmament. At this juncture, the program proposes all the militia to agree to a ceasefire and enter into the program through willful disarmament. According to the Kabul conference, this was a sure way of ending the war through peaceful negotiations. It also ensured that the fighters would be approached by communities assisted by the government, and thus their grievances would be aIDressed. This way, infighting in the country would eventually subside, thus letting insurgents rejoin the community with honor and dignity.
Facts and Figures
Progress reported by the program can only be measured in figures that different bodies have reported since its commencement. The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), an arm of the government under the United States Department, has been tracking efforts aimed at implementing the APRP. In its 2011 report, SIGAR asserts that the rate of implementation has been increasing, with some 2970 fighters having been reintegrated and already involved in the APRP.
However, the same report indicated a rather chilling and unexpected result. It stated that about 90% of integration was taking place in the North and West of the country, a region bordering on Iran and Turkmenistan. The concern here was that these regions were less volatile and experienced fewer attacks than other regions in the country. On the other hand, highly dangerous parts of the country, such as the South and the East that border on Pakistan, have recorded fewer numbers of insurgents willing to lay down their arms.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report, different figures were reported in the third quarter of 2010,.The report stated that about 1948 of the total 2660 registered fighters were reintegrated. Communities recovered in four provinces had successfully taken off, and thus integrated fighters were getting the attention they deserved.
Another report by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a NATO-led security mission in Afghanistan established by the United Nations Security Council, identified 3,907 successfully integrated insurgents and another 207 awaiting approval in the first quarter of 2012. An aIDitional 327 were awaiting demobilization, and this number was said to increase in the recent future.
Other non-governmental or ISAF bodies have also presented different reports about the progress of the program. Such stakeholders as the WHO and the APRP have produced independent reports about the impact on the country’s general recovery process.
Spoilers of the Program
Several issues have arisen with regard to the success of the program. One of the chief problems associated with the program is lack of clear procedures that will ensure safety of reconciled insurgents. A report by the International Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO) suggests that reconciled insurgents run the danger of being attacked for desertion by armed groups. While the program assures reconciled fighters of their security, serious inconsistencies have been witnessed. The PRIO report asserts that while some commanders of militants are housed in safe houses and good locations, other fighters are sent to the their villages located in close proximity to insurgents.
The second issue raised in the PRIO report points to the fact that there is no clear policy that ensures that insurgents would be freed from prosecution for past atrocities. The ISAF’s report seems to support this concern by stating that there is no uniform policy that provides for future prosecution. The program candidly explains that the APRP sought a political solution, whereby all fighters would be assured of amnesty. However, the program leaves room for future prosecution of fighters for criminal acts committed during their time in militia groups. Nevertheless, the program does not define the pretext under which acts are deemed criminal, nor does it define the extent of prosecution.
The third issue that has been aIDressed by different reports is how poorly the APRP aIDresses key grievances in the country. Blatant inefficiency and rampant corruption permeate all spheres of life in the country. The latest presidential elections were seen to have been extremely flawed, thus raising doubts about legitimacy of the current government. PRIO claims that for a peaceful agreement to be possible, the government should accept reforms as one of the non-negotiable compromises. AIDitionally, for a peaceful co-existence to continue, a new government composed of representatives from both sides must be formed.
Another potential spoiler of the program is a limited commitment from the Afghan government. Whilst there is no universal agreement on the significance of this issue, in early 2011, the PRIO reported that the strong responsibility awarded to provincial governors in the detection of PPC members and other vital elements of the APRP structure put them in a position to impede the progress of the program. PRIO pointed out that the HPC was forced to suspend a number of PPC governors’ nominations because the local councils were composed of numerous long-time Taliban opponents, whom insurgents were not willing to deal with during reintegration. Similar sentiments were echoed by the UNDP, which stated that the success of the program significantly relied on the buying in of the provincial governor.
Another spoiler for the APRP program was a possibility of reintegrating fake insurgents. The PRIO report highlights concerns about the likelihood of reintegrating militants who were members of insurgent groups or the Taliban. To substantiate this concern, the UNDP maintained that it is difficult to distinguish legitimate insurgents from the fake ones who enter the program with the sole objective of monetary gains.
Absence of synergy during a political process is also a potential spoiler for the program. As mentioned above, IDR seeks to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate insurgents. However, this usually takes place in a post-conflict period and after signing a peace agreement. Under such circumstances, reintegration benefits are viewed as a form of inducement, which creates a safe and secure setting to initiate demobilization efforts. However, the PRIO reports that the UN and some members of the Afghan government opted to postpone reintegration efforts in an attempt to await the signing of a peace agreement. Furthermore, there are no effective monitoring and evaluation systems to measure the progress of the program since its inception.
Recommendations and Proposals
The people of Afghanistan have not enjoyed lasting peace for the last thirty years. Therefore, the nation has been in a state of a never-ending conflict for as long as some citizens can recall. While no one can be directly accused of causing the instability, the efforts taken by international organizations to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate warring parties are quite commendable. In order to implement the APRP, a number of high-ranking government officials will need to be wary and cautious; thus, this process requires the building of adequate confidence levels among citizens.
The best way to build such confidence is to ensure total immunity for any insurgent that will accept reintegration. At this point, there is a need to guarantee total immunity for all insurgents accepting to lay down their arms and cooperate with the government. Similarly, the program should review efforts aimed at providing security for integrated insurgents.
Another concern is the encompassing nature of the insurgent groups that have agreed to the APRP as a form of a peace treaty. Afghanistan happens to be home to several insurgent groups, and their number can be detrimental to the peace process in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban presents the most formidable force in terms of stability threats. The recent assassination of one of the leading peace negotiators, which the Taliban claimed responsibility for has two implications, namely: 1) the Taliban has not fully agreed to the program 2) the program has not fully involved all armed groups. The government and other stakeholders, such as ISAF, must make a concerted effort to approach the Taliban with open discussions. Otherwise, the strong and rebellious Taliban will simply wash away all the gains towards a peaceful Afghanistan, especially in the south and east.
Afghanistan is a country with resources to ensure its people education, as well as proper health care and living standards. However, all of these attributes of a stable nation can only be achieved through a national reconciliation program. The APRP is a document that could herald a new era for the war-torn nation. The last 11 years have proved a degrading nature of war and divided the nation based due to misplaced ideologies. The program seeks to use a political process to bring together all warring factions to agree on a ceasefire and peace reintegration of the people of Afghanistan. The integration process is to be based on a multifaceted approach that includes governance, security and economic aspects for unification of the country’s citizens. While several milestones have been achieved, a lot still needs to be done. ISAF and the rest of the international community should also provide both consultative and financial services.
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 S Barakat, A Giustozzi, C Langton, M Murphy, M Sedra, & A Strand, Strategic conflict assessment: Afghanistan, UK Department for International Development, London, 2008, p. 102.
 L Brahim & T Pickering, Afghanistan: Negotiating peace, The Century Foundation International Task Force, Kabul, 2011, p. 147.
 S Bhatia, Contemporary Afghanistan: A political dictionary, Har-Anand Publications, Kuala Lumpur, 2003, p. 56.
 D Derksen, Peace From the bottom-up? The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, International Peace Research Institute Oslo, Oslo, 2011, p. 258.
 M Fischer, Transitional justice and reconciliation: Theory and practice, Berghof Foundation, Oslo, 2010, p. 99.
 Great Britain: Parliament: House of Commons: Defence Committee, ‘Operations in Afghanistan: fourth report of session 2010-12’, House of Commons papers, The Stationery Office, London, 2010, p. 36.
 G Hayes & M Sedra, Afghanistan: Transition under threat, Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Press, Norman, 2008, p. 100.
 MJ Humphreys & Weinstein, Disentangling the Determinants of Successful Demobilization and Reintegration, 2005, retrieved May 21, 2012, http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/wgape/papers/9_Weinstein.pdf
 S Zyck, ‘Peace & Reintegration: An Introduction’, Part 1 of a 4-Part Series on Peace and Reintegration in Afghanistan, Civil Military Fusion Center, New York, 2012.
 S Shinn & J Dobbins, Afghan peace talks: A primer, RAND Corporation, Washington DC, 2010, p. 154.
 US Congress, Report on progress toward security and stability in Afghanistan, DIANE Publishing, Boston, 2010, p. 45.
 International Monetary Fund, ‘Islamic Republic of Afghanistan: Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper’, Issues 8-153 of IMF country report, International Monetary Fund, Kabul, 2008, p.75.
 National Security Council, Demobilization and Reintegration Commission Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program: Programme Document, 2010, retrieved May 21, 2012, https://ronnaafghan.harmonieweb.org/FRIC/APRP%20Policy%20Documents%20Structures%20and%20SOPs/APRP%20Program%20Document%20English.pdf
 P James-Allen, A Weah & L Goodfriend, Beyond the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, International Center for Transitional Justice, Stockholm, 2011.
 H Nixon & C Hartzell, Beyond power sharing: Institutional options for an Afghan peace process, United States Institute of Peace, Washington DC, 2011, p. 125.
 A Ozerdem, ‘A re-conceptualization of ex-combatant reintegration: ‘social reintegration’ approach’, Conflict, Security & Development, 2012, p. 85.
 S Jones, Reintegrating Afghan Insurgents, RAND Corporation, Washington DC, 2011, p. 89.