Badghis, in northwestern Afghanistan, is the province where the most Taleban have laid down their weapons and joined the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP). The Spanish journalist Mònica Bernabé* travelled in June to Qala-e Naw, Badghis capital. By that month, 593 Taleban had laid down their weapons. Last week, the number had grown to 765 **. Such success, however, can become a nightmare if the programme is not resourced or run properly. As Bernabé reports, the reintegrees are complaining that the government has not given them what it promised and threaten to go back to the fight to take revenge.
In theory the government should pay fighters who renounce violence 5,000 Afghanis per month during the first three months, give them five sheep and offer them a job opportunity. Haji Khalil Khan Achekzai, member of the Badghis Provincial Peace Council, said in June that they were paying the 5,000 Afghanis per month (111 dollars) to the reintegrees. However, the sheep had never come through and neither had the employment opportunities. The members of the Joint Secretariat in charge of all the paperwork for the APRP in Badghis said that in April, they had sent a project proposal to Kabul and still hadn’t received a response. Now, two months later, the situation remains unchanged; they are still waiting.
The 25 members of the Badghis Provincial Peace Council are facing their own economic problems. They reach out to insurgents to learn their grievances and concerns and encourage them to stop fighting and rejoin the community. According to Haji Khalil, the Council should receive 10,000 dollars per month from the High Peace Council Secretariat in Kabul to cover the expenses of this outreach and to pay for the transport of the insurgents to Qala-e Naw and for food for the reintegration ceremonies. However, in June, they had not received this money for two months. The Peace Council, in June, owed 864,029 Afghanis (about 19,200 dollars) to shopkeepers and drivers from Qala-e Naw, due to the lack of funds. ‘We have now resolved that problem’, said Haji Khalil last week, speaking by phone from Badghis, ‘but the [new tranches of] money is still arriving late.’
‘We will have serious problems if we don’t receive money soon’, said in June an NDS officer who did not want to disclose his name. Badghis governor, Delbar Jan Arman, also admitted that the situation was not the best: ‘Every day, they say they will send the money ‘tomorrow’, but that ‘tomorrow’ never comes’, he said. Still he was confident of keeping the reintegrees on his side. It is not obvious, however, where his confidence comes from.
The former fighters continue to possess their arms. The APRP allows them to keep their personal weapons, such as AK-47s and rifles, after they are registered. Therefore the Taleban are getting back the weapons that they deliver to the government in the reintegration ceremonies. They hand the guns in, only for the journalists to take pictures, the former fighters say.
In June, it was easy to meet some of those former fighters waiting for help in front of the NDS office in Qala-e Naw. It was difficult to clarify, though, what exactly they had received from the government. Sometimes they contradicted themselves about the amount of money. What was clear was that none of them was happy.
‘My life was much better before,’ claimed Mullah Naim, who had been fighting in Dara-e Bum, Muqur district. ‘Here in Qala-e Naw, I cannot find a job because everybody knows I was a Taleb and the government doesn’t offer me any employment opportunity.’ Another man, Commander Rasul, from Qadis district, said that before he had been getting, ‘food from the people and between 5.000 to 20.000 Afghanis per month from Pakistan’.
Last week, Mullah Naim said on the phone that his situation was unchanged. However, Commander Salam Haqqani, another former fighter, explained that the government had said it was going to start some vocational training in Qadis and Muqur districts and would pay the reintegrees to attend. ‘I hope this time, they will keep their word,’ he said. Few days ago the Joint Secretariat in Badghis informed that they just started some vocational training (tailoring, carpentry, and production of honey) in Qadis, Muqur and Ab Kamari districts. Will that solve the problem?
(*) Mònica Bernabé works for the Spanish daily newspaper El Mundo, is based in Kabul since 2007 and started to travel to Afghanistan regularly in 2000.
(**) In June most of the fighters who joined the APRP in Badghis (around 400 out of 593) were Tajiks from Qadis district. Very few were Pashtuns from Bala Murghab district, the Taleban stronghold in the province, according to data from the Joint Secretariat in Badghis.
This article was last updated on 9 Mar 2020