Efforts to encourage Afghan insurgents to change sides are not as successful as they look on paper, according to residents of the eastern Nangarhar province.
Insurgent surrenders are taking place under Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. A provincial branch of the council has been operating in Nangarhar since the end of 2011, and officials claim 106 individuals have come in from the cold to join the process since then, most of them surrendering arms as well.
The Nangarhar peace council’s head, Malik Nazir, says candidates for the process are vetted by police and intelligence agencies to ensure that they are genuine insurgents.
Despite this, locals say many of the supposed insurgents are just opportunists keen to benefit from the assistance package that is supposed to ease combatants’ reintegration into civilian life.
“There are no Taleban in this district. Those who have surrendered to that peace council have no connection whatsoever with the Taleban – it’s fraudulent,” Muhabat, a resident of Nangarhar’s Achin district, told IWPR. “Take Gulistan, who lives in the Koshtel Landi Dari district – he was never Taleban; he was nothing. But for monetary gain, he made himself out to be Taleban and joined the council.”
Mullah Stana Gul, from the village of Toto in the Shirzad district, said he knew some of these supposed Taleban personally.
“I know them very well because they are from my village. Lalai and Ali were extremely poor and the joined the process,” he said. “They used to work here and everybody in the village knew them. These peace council people are just faking it.”
Muhammad Miran, a teacher in the Bati Kot district, said a genuine insurgent commander called Khalid from his are was keen to join the peace and reconciliation process. However, he was prevented from doing so because some of the peace council officials had a personal grudge against him.
Zabihullah Zemarai, a member of Nangarhar’s elected assembly, described the peace council as purely “ceremonial”.
“The people hired for this council aren’t even able to go to their home villages,” Zemarai said, “so how are they going to be able to sit down with the Taleban and persuade them to come over to the Afghan government?”
Mahbubshah Mahbub is an IWPR-trained radio reporter in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
This report was produced as part of the Afghan Critical Mass Media Reporting in Uruzgan and Nangarhar project, and is also published on the Afghan Centre for Investigative Journalism website which IWPR has set up locally.