AAN Papers

Militia Disbandment and Peace Building: AAN republication of a 2008 paper


Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) was the name of a crucial programme in the post-Taleban years in Afghanistan that ran from 2006 to 2011. As the successor to the Demobilisation, Disarmament and Reintegration (DDR) programme, it was designed to disband those remaining armed groups in the areas of the country not covered by DDR and outside the control of the central government in Kabul. In 2011, it became part of the Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Programme (APRP). DIAG no longer deals with ‘criminal’ groups, however, only with armed insurgent groups. In effect, DIAG has become the implementer of the reintegration programme. But this does not mean that all non-Taleban illegal armed groups had disappeared. Here, AAN is republishing a 2008 paper on the subject: ‘The Role of DDR and DIAG and Their Impact on Peace Building’ by Barbara Stapleton.

In the 2008 paper that AAN is republishing here – ‘The Role of DDR and DIAG and Their Impact on Peace Building’ – its author Barbara Stapleton called it the unfinished work of the post-2001 international intervention in Afghanistan. She concluded that ‘the international community’s failure to demonstrate sufficient intent with regard to reaching DDR and DIAG objectives rendered DIAG a self-fulfilling prophecy in regard to its limited and weak outcomes to date.’

The study of DIAG remains timely and relevant, both because illegal armed groups continue to be a primary obstacle to improving governance and ending impunity in Afghanistan and because a process of re-arming and establishing paramilitary, semi-irregular groups is underway – a process that is intensifying as international forces are drawing down. In effect, the militia programmes erode the limited results achieved by both DDR and DIAG and contradict the objective of demilitarising Afghan society to enable sustainable stability. Again, Barbara Stapleton had warned in her paper that: ‘The discourse that has surfaced recently on “community defence” which is believed to include the possibility of creating additional militias, has consistently provoked negative reactions in the local media. Not surprisingly given historic resonances and growing fears that a return to civil war cannot be discounted…‘ Community defence forces’ latest reincarnation is the Afghan Local Police (ALP), referred to as arbaki by Afghans in general.

The institutional blurring after the original DIAG programme was integrated into the APRP may well have resulted in the petering out of DIAG altogether. One thing is clear: all new militia programmes, including the ALP and similar programmes that came before, have used the pool of the non-disbanded IAGs (Illegally Armed Groups) for recruitment.

AAN Occasional Paper 02/2013

Release date: 28 April 2013

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