Afghanistan

Afghanistan: UN milestone in militia disarmament

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KABUL, 13 June (IRIN) - The disarmament demobilisation and reintegration (DDR) of former combatants has passed a significant milestone, the UN announced on Monday, the programme having processed a total of 60,000 former Afghan militia force members.

The DDR, which started in November 2003, has so far cost the international community more than US $100 million and is considered a major step towards restoring national security and creating an enabling environment for further security sector reform.

According to the Afghanistan New Beginning Programme, the official name of DDR, the project has processed more than 60,000 people, but will come to and end on 28 June.

While there are another two weeks before the process ends, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said there were still military personnel from the Afghan forces needing to disarm.

"We think it won't be more than 70,000 people who will have been disarmed by the end of June," Ariane Quentier, a spokeswoman for UNAMA, said in the capital, Kabul, on Monday. She added the UN still had problems with militia groups like division one (01) in the northern Panjshir valley, which still needed to be disbanded.

"The problem is division one. We still have no compliance. We are in [the] negotiating process right now and we are hopeful and optimistic that by 28 of June we will have completed the process of disarmament and demobilisation [of all militias], including division one," she noted.

The completion of militia disarmament coincides with the launch of a new Afghan government-led security initiative: the disbanding of illegal armed groups - still a huge security headache - known as DIAG.

On Saturday, Kabul ordered more than 1,000 illegal armed groups around the country to hand over their guns as the nation prepares for parliamentary elections.

Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said the authorities knew many of the armed groups and they could not hide their arms.

"The first round of DIAG will address candidates with links to armed groups, the second phase would address the groups who voluntarily give up their arms and in the third phase we will use all our means to make them dismantle [their structures]," Wardak told IRIN following the launch of DIAG in Kabul.

The groups are still seen as a threat to stability more than three years after a US-led Coalition overthrew the Taliban government.

There are also fears gunmen could intimidate voters in the 18 September parliamentary elections. Candidates for the 249-seat lower house of parliament are forbidden to belong to armed groups.

The new drive, which is being financed by international donors, is expected to take up to three years to complete, according to defence ministry officials.

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