Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UN marks disarmament milestone

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KABUL, 1 July (IRIN) - The disarmament and demobilisation phase of the UN-backed Disarmament Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR) programme in Afghanistan ended on 30 June, while reintegration of former combatants will take another year, the United Nations announced on Thursday, in the capital, Kabul.

The DDR has processed a total of 61,417 former Afghan militia force (AMF) members of which 52,509 have been assisted with reintegration package so far.

The DDR, which started in November 2003 with Japan as the lead nation and major donor, has so far cost the international community more than US $100 million and is considered a major step towards restoring national security.

"After today no one will be allowed to use or move weapons other than security organisations or those licensed to do so by the ministry of interior," Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), said.

According to UNAMA, 34,726 light and medium weapons have been collected under the DDR process, of which 14,754 have been handed to the Ministry of Defence (MoD), with the remainder held by the Afghan National Army.

Although Thursday was the final day of disarmament, the DDR, at the request of the ministry of defence, will continue to process AMF units that have already applied for assistance in demobilisation, the spokesman added.

But the success of the DDR is not the end of the process of taking armed men out of Afghan society. The completion of militia disarmament coincides with the launch of a new Afghan government-led security initiative: the disbandment of illegal armed groups - still a huge security headache in many parts of the country.

According to the MoD, there are still at least 1,800 illegal armed groups around the country. Kabul wants their estimated 10,000 members disarmed before parliamentary elections scheduled for 18 September.

Candidates for the 249-seat lower house of parliament are forbidden to belong to armed groups. Election workers in Kabul said that in the last two weeks, several candidates had voluntarily surrendered their arms and decommissioned their private militias in an effort to meet requirements under Afghan election law.

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