NATO: 99 percent of reformed insurgents staying out of fight

By CHRIS CARROLL | STARS AND STRIPES Published: February 22, 2012

WASHINGTON — Nearly all of the 3,100 former Taliban fighters who have officially laid down their weapons and joined an Afghan government reintegration program appear to have left the fight for good, a NATO official said Wednesday.

Fewer than 10 insurgents who entered the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program have gone back to fighting, while another 20 are under investigation, leaving more than 99 percent living peacefully in their communities, said British Maj. Gen. David Hook, director of the International Security Assistance Force’s reintegration cell.

Although the current number of participants is nearly double the number who joined last spring, it is still only 25 percent of the number of Taliban defectors that Hook’s predecessor estimated would be necessary to fundamentally affect the progress of the war.

British Maj. Gen. Phil Jones last May estimated that at least 12,000 insurgents would have to join to have a major impact.

But Hook said simple numbers don’t tell the whole story. The program targets the low-level leaders who do most of the heavy lifting in the fight against the U.S.-led coalition.

“For me, the key here is getting the key individuals off the battlefield. So it’s about focusing on those individuals that are perhaps mid- to low-level leaders who are driving the insurgency,” Hook said. “So whilst numbers are important, it’s actually about the effect of taking key individuals off the battlefield.”

Twenty percent or more of the reintegrated Taliban are leaders who bring with them small groups of subordinates, he said.

Once in the program, they receive a three-month stipend to support their families while they undergo training, and then are sent back into society to make their own way, Hook said.

It differs in a key way from a previous reintegration program sponsored by the Soviet-backed Afghan government that simply paid insurgents not to fight. When the Soviets withdrew financial backing at the end of the Cold War, the program collapsed and the insurgents swept back into battle, he said.

But, Hook said, the current Afghan government reintegration program depends to a far lesser extent on international subsidies.

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