On the Big Plans behind the reconciliation program for jihadis in Afghanistan, from today's Washington Post:.
The Bush administration displayed little enthusiasm for Afghan reintegration efforts, preferring to fight insurgents over trying to make peace with them, but Obama's strategists on Afghanistan have bet heavily on the idea. A recent Japanese government pledge of $5 billion in aid for Afghanistan is expected to be applied largely to reintegration efforts, and the United States has also vowed to commit money.
But the effort could be limited, since U.S. and allied officials here say the Afghan government will need to take the lead on the project. "We're not going to put one tiny foot ahead of where the Afghan government wants to go with this," Barrons said.
Still, Barrons and other international officials here have definite ideas of what they want the program to look like. ...
Barrons said the plan is not to pay former fighters directly, but rather to focus on cash-for-work programs that could give them an alternative source of income to the Taliban, which compensates its fighters relatively well.
Barrons also said the United States and its allies will work with the government to facilitate the creation of village-defense forces, which could be used locally to guard against Taliban encroachment and to supplement Afghan national security forces. But he said the groups would not receive direct military assistance.
The hope is that such efforts could, by this time next year, put a significant strain on the Taliban and ultimately lead to high-level reconciliation between the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Taliban leaders such as Mohammad Omar.
For the moment, such talks are considered unlikely because the Taliban has the momentum, and some here worry that it is too late for reintegration efforts to have any meaningful impact. If anything, the flow of fighters today appears to be toward the Taliban, not away from it.
Still, three decades of nonstop war in Afghanistan have created a desperate desire for peace, and U.S. planners are betting that some may respond to any offer they get to leave the battlefield behind.
Mohammed Abid, 24, abandoned the Taliban and joined the government's reconciliation program this fall. He represents, he said, a test case for about 70 other insurgents who are also sick of war, but want to know whether the government is serious about its promise to welcome former fighters back home.
So far, Abid said, he feels tricked, and no less resentful of the U.S. forces he thinks are occupying his country.
"History teaches us that all the other religions are against Islam, so as a Muslim, when I see the foreign troops, I can't help but feel hate," said Abid, his glare icy. "I feel it in every inch of my body."