"We're leveraging it," Gen. John Allen,
commander of all international security forces in Afghanistan, said in
an interview with visiting reporters on Monday at his southern regional
command in Uruzgan. Ryan Crocker, America's ambassador to Afghanistan,
also likes this approach. "If we have a [Taliban] command that no longer
has an army to command, that works for me," he said in a separate
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Hence ISAF's tongue-tying neologism: the "re-integree."
According to a senior U.S. adviser to Mohammad Stanekzai, head of the
"Afghanistan Peace and Reconciliation Program (APRP)," one measure of
success of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy is that, since the first
"re-integree" came over in October 2010, some 4,200 to 4,300 insurgents
have returned to their villages and towns in the last year and a half.
(Another 600 are now being "vetted," the adviser says.) Under the APRP,
these former fighters give up their "heavy arms," sign an oath
renouncing violence and abiding by the Afghan constitution, get three
months of $120 payments, and are consigned to the wrath of their village
elders if they relapse. An added inducement is that communities can
only qualify for small grants from the national government if they show
they have some re-integrees.
And yet, admitted the adviser, "we're
not at the point where 4,000 is statistically significant." That's
because most of the fighters who surrender arms are in the areas with
the least diehard jihadists in the non-Pashtun North and West, like
Badghis and Herat. (Badghis, in Regional Command West, has by far the
largest proportion of re-integrees, some 12-to-1,300 or one third of the
"The problem with the south and east is you're much
closer to the heart of the insurgency, they're much more hard-core, and
there are more concerns about retribution," the adviser said. As yet, no
more than a thousand have come out of the south and east.
Allen and Amb. Crocker say they place a lot of hope in anecdotal
evidence that, slowly, even some of the more zealous, Pakistan-supported
Taliban in the south and east are realizing that, in fact, the U.S. and
NATO are never going to depart entirely. They say the 10-year strategic
partnership that President Obama announced just last week will have a
tremendous psychological impact, as will similar commitments expected at
the NATO summit in Chicago in two weeks.
"There's going to be an
international military presence here in Afghanistan for a long time, a
long time after 2014," Allen said. "While the Taliban for the purposes
of recruiting and to maintain the coherence in their units may well
desire to say that we'll just wait you out, I think the reality is that
every day they wait is a day they're at greater disadvantage, frankly,"