Graft and Remilitarisation: A look back at efforts to disarm, demobilise, reconcile and reintegrate
Author: Kate Clark
Even before the Eid truce suddenly made a peace process in Afghanistan imaginable, international civilian and military circles were wondering what they could do to support one. The government, the High Peace Council (HPC) and donors are also currently negotiating future funding for the HPC. It seems a good moment, says AAN’s Kate Clark, to look back at Afghanistan’s previous experiences with ‘funding peace’, especially at the four programmes aimed at DDR and reintegration. All were costly failures. If there is to be a genuine peace process, understanding what went wrong with these programmes, which drove corruption and remilitarisation, is important.
The author started writing this dispatch well before the Afghan government, Taleban and US military ceasefires over Eid and the resulting mass fraternisation made it possible to imagine what peace in Afghanistan might look like (read AAN analysis here and some reactions from Afghans here). Afghanistan’s international backers were thinking what they could do to support a peace process. Also, the High Peace Council Joint Secretariat, headed by Muhammad Ekram Khpulwak, who is also a senior adviser to President Ghani, had been sounding out donors for a new reintegration project. The donors proved to be sceptical about this, AAN was told, but have been negotiating new funding for the High Peace Council with more limited aims (more on which later).
If there is traction on a peace process, or if even the possibility that one can be talked up, one can envisage future calls by Kabul for funding to ‘persuade’ fighters to stop fighting or reward ‘their’ communities, for setting up new institutions, or just to keep the Kabul government going on its ‘road to peace’. However if there is to be a genuine peace process, another ill-thought out reintegration programme, or any other premature funding to promote peace could be poison. Particularly as Afghanistan heads into elections, any programme seeking fresh funding should be transparent and accountable.
Trying to encourage peace with aid money has proved counterproductive. Fishstein and Wilder in their in-depth research on deploying aid in Afghanistan in a bid to improve security and stabilisation concluded it had the opposite affect:
The most destabilizing aspect of the war-aid economy was in fueling massive corruption that served to delegitimize the government. Other destabilizing effects included: generating competition and conflict over aid resources, often along factional, tribal or ethnic lines; creating perverse incentives to maintain an insecure environment, as was the case with security contractors who were reported to be “creating a problem to solve a problem”; fueling conflicts between communities over locations of roads and the hiring of laborers; and, causing resentment by reinforcing existing inequalities and further strengthening dominant groups, often allied with political leaders and regional strongmen, at the expense of others.
The four main post-2001 reintegration schemes in Afghanistan are other examples of how programmes aimed at encouraging peace have done the opposite. They have also helped consolidate the political positions of powerful players and proved to be vehicles for corruption.
The first two – Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration or DDR, (2003–05) and Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups Programme or DIAG (2005 and ongoing) – dealt with pro-government armed groups. The second two – _Program-e Tahkim-e Sulh _or PTS, Strengthening Peace Programme (2005-10) and the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Programme or APRP (2010-16) – were aimed at insurgents.