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KABUL, 12 July (IRIN) - More than 200 local commanders have been disarmed and tens of thousands of arms and ammunitions collected in Afghanistan since the government-led Disbanding of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) started early June, officials at the disarmament and reintegration (DR) commission confirmed to IRIN on Tuesday.
"In the last 36 days since DIAG was launched more than 16,000 guns and up to 100 trucks of ammunition have been collected throughout the country," Masoum Stanekzai, a minister advising Afghan President Hamid Karzai and deputy head of the DR commission, said on Tuesday in the capital, Kabul.
Stanekzai said that the process was proceeding peacefully and had not faced any reaction or resistance from any armed groups so far.
Following the completion of Afghan militia forces disarmament under the UN-backed Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants, which ended in late June, the government of Afghanistan and UN are now focusing on the DIAG initiative as a major security programme.
More than 60,000 former combatants were disarmed by the DDR, which took the international community nearly 20 months and over US $150 million to complete. In addition to the decommissioning of ex-combatants, nearly 35,000 light and medium weapons were collected under the DDR.
The DDR is now being followed up by the DIAG initiative, which is aiming 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.
The groups are still regarded as threat to stability more than three years after a US-led Coalition overthrew the Taliban regime.
There are also fears that gunmen could intimidate voters in the 18 September parliamentary elections. Membership of any armed group is forbidden for candidates standing for election to the 249-seat lower house of parliament or provincial councils.
Some 245 commanders have surrendered weapons under DIAG in different parts of the country and of them, 105 are prospective candidates in September's elections.
Stanekzai said the groups or individuals holding arms illegally would not be rewarded in the same way that ex-combatants were under the DDR process.
"They will not be offered cash or other incentives but a particular community or area can be granted some development projects if they help the process," he noted.
"If it goes on as smooth as it does now, the problem of arms and insecurity [in Afghanistan] will be solved to a very high extent in just one year's time," the Afghan official noted. He added that most of the commanders had voluntarily joined DIAG initiative while in some areas people helped the disarmament workers identify the groups.
According to the DR commission, newly ratified legislation will soon be in force, which will ban the unlicensed ownership of private arms and ammunitions. Under new regulations only those with the necessary permits issued by the interior ministry will be allowed to bear arms.
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