Washington - Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke says the launch of the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program designed to persuade Taliban fighters to give up their arms and return to their communities reflects the Obama administration's view that there is no purely military solution to the continuing conflict in Afghanistan.
Speaking at the State Department July 13, Holbrooke said the program is "a key ingredient of a successful campaign in Afghanistan," and that it is now "assembled and ready to go."
Holbrooke will join Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in Kabul July 20 for an international conference on Afghanistan, where he said the program to reintegrate Taliban fighters will be discussed.
At a July 1 news briefing in Kabul, British Army Major General Philip Jones, director of the International Security Assistance Force for Afghanistan's (ISAF's) Force Reintegration Cell, said ISAF has been working with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's reintegration adviser, Minister Mohammad Masoom Stanakzai, since January to build the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program.
"We have built a program across multiple ministries and focused at the district level and below. This program looks at villages and individuals and will create coherence and restore the dialogue between individuals and their communities and between communities and their districts," Jones said. "This program seeks to initiate grievance resolution, help resolve grievances and to maintain the dignity and honor of everyone involved in the process."
President Karzai signed a presidential decree in late June establishing the program, which reportedly will seek to persuade up to 36,000 insurgent fighters to lay down their arms by 2015. Jones said the launch of the program "is really excellent news" and that it has a promising future.
"There continue to be small pockets of reintegration occurring around the country and a few larger groups are starting to express interest in it as well. People realize that this program is a benefit to entire communities, not just individuals," Jones said. "It is not a 'guns-for-peace' program, but a way for former fighters to lead peaceful and productive lives for their own benefit as well as for the benefit of their communities."
Ambassador Holbrooke said that in conflicts such as the insurgency in Afghanistan "there's always a window for people who want to come in from the cold."
"This is not a war between two foreign nations; it's a war between people who are Afghans, some of whom may live next door and take sanctuary next door, but they are Afghans. If they are willing to accept the red lines and come in from the cold, there has to be a place for them," he said.
U.S. officials have said returning Taliban fighters would need to lay down their arms, renounce extremist groups, including al-Qaida, and accept the Afghan Constitution. Holbrooke said the Obama administration had recognized the need for a reintegration program when it took office, but that it was impossible to pursue it in 2009 while Afghanistan was consumed with its presidential election.
In support of the reintegration program, Holbrooke said Japan and the United Kingdom so far have raised about $180 million from international donors. He added that the U.S. Congress has allowed the U.S. Defense Department to reserve $100 million in Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds for the reintegration effort.
The ambassador repeated U.S. support for Afghan-led reconciliation efforts with senior Taliban leaders, but said any such discussions do not involve the United States. "We are not in direct contact with the Taliban," he said.
Asked about efforts at the United Nations to remove certain Taliban leaders from being subject to international sanctions enacted by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1267, Holbrooke said that while the United States "will not support a blanket ending of this list," it has agreed to join other Security Council members in reviewing the names on a case-by-case basis, and he said, "We want to scrub the list down."
He said that while some of the individuals continue to be dangerous threats to the United States and its allies, some of those on the list have died since the resolution originally passed in 1999, while others have reconciled with the Karzai government and even participated in Afghanistan's political processes.
(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)