Ex-Taliban Take Up Sewing Machines

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What's the best way to rehabilitate a former Taliban soldier so he can rejoin Afghan society? According to a story in The Washington Post, it's to house him for a time in a detention camp that "doubles as a trade school, offering detainees a chance to learn skills that could help them build a future and break their dependency on the Taliban."

Joby Warrick of the Post explains:

A detainee review board assesses each inmate to determine whether he belongs there. Detainees alleged to have committed crimes are transferred to Afghan criminal courts, while a small minority of hardened terrorists -- perhaps 40 out of a population of 800 -- are kept indefinitely in the facility's maximum-security wing. But most of Parwan's population -- typically poor, illiterate young men who were drawn to the Taliban for financial, rather than ideological, reasons -- are placed on a track aimed toward release.

So what does that track consist of? "Detainees can learn to read and write, or study the Koran under the guidance of moderate mullahs, or master technical skills such as farm management, carpet-weaving and calligraphy," Warrick writes. "Detainees who take up tailoring lessons are given sewing machines to take with them after their release."

Cause for optimism! Or maybe not. Time's Joe Klein, long a chronicler of the American military's on-the-ground strategies for stabilizing Afghanistan, sounds a note of skepticism: "This is testimony to the incredible creativity of the U.S. military effort. But it raises a question: if these Taliban foot soldiers return to home districts dominated by the utter corruption, and the purposeful tribal favorites-playing, of the Aghan government, how long before they switch sides again."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.