Afghanistan: Last ex-combatant disarmed under DDR

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KABUL, 7 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - The Afghan government and the United Nations celebrated the end of the disarmament and demobilisation phase of the UN-backed Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) as the last ex-militia member was disarmed at a ceremony in the capital, Kabul, on Thursday.

"I am proud to have surrendered my arm to the president of my country, I hope I will now join the reconstruction Jihad [holy war]," said Jalalludin, a former officer of the 717 Kabul brigade and the last Afghan ex-combatant in DDR. He was speaking immediately after surrendering his AK 47 to president Hamid Karzai as a symbolic move to mark the formal end of disarmament.

The DDR programme began in October 2003 with the aim of replacing the former armed forces of Afghanistan with a new professional Afghan National Army (ANA). With Japan as the lead nation and a major donor, DDR is considered a significant step towards restoring national security and has so far cost the international donors more than US $100 million.

According to Afghanistan's New Beginning Programme (ANBP), the official name for the DDR, almost 63,000 former combatants have now been disarmed and demobilised, of whom up to 53,000 have been assisted with reintegration packages so far.

General Rahim Wardak, Afghan defence minister, said that in less than two years, 250 units of ex-militias have been decommissioned including nine corps with their divisions, brigades and supporting elements. He said Afghanistan's DDR was one of the largest and most successful arms collection programmes in the world.

The UN said it would still take another year to reintegrate the remaining combatants into civilian life.

"We at the UN do our best to make sure that the reintegration is as full and as sustainable as can be," Jean Arnault, the UN special envoy in Afghanistan, said.

In addition to the decommissioning of ex-combatants, nearly 35,000 light and medium weapons have been collected under the DDR.

The programme has also resulted in savings to the government of Afghanistan of over $ 120 million per year in salaries and other payments, allowing the administration to focus more resources on the ANA and National Police according to a joint statement from the UN and ANBP.

The DDR will now be followed by the newly-launched DIAG (Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups] which is to dismantle an estimated 1,800 illegal armed bands of men consisting of up to 100,000 individuals who are still seen as a huge security headache in many parts of the country.

Afghanistan is going to hold its first ever parliamentary elections in the autumn. Local people fear that despite the disarmament of such huge numbers of militia, the remaining illegal armed groups might still be a potential source of intimidation and harassment from local warlords around the


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