Afghanistan: Demobilisation conference expected to boost security

ISLAMABAD, 20 February (IRIN) - A major donor conference this weekend in the Japanese capital Tokyo is expected to speed up the disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants in Afghanistan, following pledges by the US and Japanese governments to provide US $95 million for the process.
"It's an opportunity to garner international support and funding for the DDR process and to bring together the international partners with the key Afghans involved who can create momentum towards implementation of the programme on the ground," David Haeri, special assistant to the UN Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, told IRIN from the Afghan capital, Kabul on Thursday.

"DDR is integral to security sector reforms," he said, adding that Saturday's conference would be an important time for donors to indicate their support for the process. "To draw the armed men into a civilian economy is important because it improves the overall security environment," Haeri maintained.

Experts believe that the peace process in Afghanistan requires the demobilisation and reintegration of hundreds of thousands of armed Afghans into a civilian peace economy. Parallel to that, is the creation of a national army and police force necessary to boost security.

According to an agreement signed on Wednesday by Zalmai Rasoul, top adviser on national security affairs to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and US ambassador to Kabul, Robert Finn, some US $60 million would be provided for projects related to security sector reforms.

In a separate deal the same day, Japan pledged to provide $35 million for the implementation of Afghanistan's New Beginnings Programme (ANBP), a programme seen as crucial for the country's peace and stability by reintegrating former combatants into a civilian economy.

"I hope this contribution will substantially help Afghanistan's people to promote DDR," Nobutaka Miyahara, Japan's charge d'affaires in Kabul, said after the signing ceremony.

International donors are expected to announce tens of millions of dollars in fresh aid for Afghanistan this weekend to help the country in improving security and training national military forces.

Apart from the Afghan government and the UN, major donors including Japan, the United States, the UK, Germany, the EU and representatives from other countries and international organisations are expected to attend the conference.

Commenting on the initiative, an expert on Afghanistan who wished to remain anonymous told IRIN that the conference would be successful if it could increase the political pressure on the warlords, including those in the government, to give up their weapons in favour of a new Afghan national army.

"The conference should also come up with pledges of funding for forming the new army and demobilisation in the country," he said. The UN repeatedly tried to facilitate some disarmament in northern Afghanistan last year but reluctance on the part of many militia commanders to disarm led the process into difficulties.

"The problem is that a lot of commanders are not interested in disarming their forces without a political settlement, which they can feel comfortable with," the expert explained, adding that many of these commanders were only nominally controlled by factional leaders and warlords.

President Karzai issued a decree in December last year that set out a programme for building an army, establishing a framework through a defence commission and an advisory to follow the DDR process. "DDR is a catalyst for some aspects for the larger transformation, which is going on in Afghanistan," Haeri explained.

Meanwhile, in a related development, Afghanistan's defence minister, Qasim Fahim replaced 16 Tajik generals on Thursday to make the defence ministry more ethnically balanced, AP reported. He told journalists in Kabul that officers from Pashtun, Uzbek and Hazara ethnic groups had replaced the generals.

Gul Zarak Zadran, a Pashtun, had assumed the post of deputy defence minister - the most senior post to change. The ministry is widely believed to be controlled by ethnic Tajiks from Fahim's northern Alliance, which were brought into the capital after the US-led military coalition defeated the hard-line Taliban government in November 2001.


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