The minister's comments followed the establishment of a new commission under the Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme which seeks to collect and store weapons currently in the possession of fighters, militia and Mujahideen and eventually demobilise them so they can take their place in civil society.
The commission was established on 11 January following a decree by President Hamid Karzai. "They [combatants and militia members] should be respected and given sustainable means of income and livelihood," General Baryalai remarked.
According to the commission, at least 100,000 ex-Mujahideen fighters need to be demobilised and reintegrated into Afghan society. "It is not very easy. The government of Afghanistan is facing a big challenge," the DDR Interim Chairperson, Moeen Merastya told IRIN, explaining that they had to work on demobilisation and disarmament, while at the same time, finding jobs and incomes for those to put down their weapons.
Turab Shah Qalandari, a 28-year-old former combatant, highlights the problem. "Without this gun I am nothing and have no skills," Qalandari told IRIN, explaining that he took up arms early on during his adulthood. "I would certainly prefer a respectable and sustainable way of supporting my family if I could afford it and were offered something better," he maintained.
But in a country with very few opportunities for the unskilled finding an alternative living for Turab will prove difficult. "Hopefully a large number of ex-fighters will be received by government and other civil organs and the ongoing demining activities by international agencies," Merastya said.
The illiterate would be given vocational training in addition to literacy classes. "Young combatants will be sent back to their families to join schools," the DDR interim chairperson said.
Some donors have been supporting demobilisation in Afghanistan. Japan has pledged US $35 million to the work of the DDR through the United Nations Development Programme(UNDP). In addition, at a donors conference in Tokyo last month, attended by representatives of 40 countries, there were other pledges amounting to US $50 million for the DDR process in Afghanistan.
The UN in Afghanistan has said it is committed to ensuring that the DDR programme works. "I think you will see this year the range of development and reconstruction programme is accelerating which will allow people to start working and gain employment," Deputy Special Representative for Secretary General, Nigel Fisher, told IRIN in Kabul.
He added that besides the DDR, which itself would hopefully generate skills training and jobs for tens of thousands of former combatants, the UN had a series of other programmes which would help stimulate economic and social development this year.
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