By British Maj. Gen. David Hook , Director of ISAF’s Force Reintegration Cell.
This week I witnessed 120 former Taliban fighters formally reintegrate back into Afghan society during a ceremony at the Governor’s compound in Ghor province. As they ceremoniously handed over their weapons one-by-one I had the incredible opportunity of having one of them hand his AK-47 to me. It was certainly one of the most powerful moments I’ve experienced since being in Afghanistan. We shook hands and I placed a traditional Afghan chapan around him. As we exchanged looks I could see the sincerity in his face that he was genuinely done with fighting. This man, who only a few weeks ago would have tried to kill me if I was standing that close to him, was now at peace with himself, enough so that he could bring himself to not only hand his weapon over to me, but shake my hand and smile at me. Whatever had caused him to fight before was obviously no longer an issue.
The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program is what makes this possible. It has the ability to change a person by addressing the grievances that originally led him to fight in the first place. The APRP works to solve these grievances, giving it the power to change a person from a fighter to a law abiding citizen of Afghanistan working towards peace in his country, a country that deserves a future of peace and an end to war. These events are what help me keep a human face on my work here with the International Security Assistance Force reintegration cell which can sometimes get lost in the simple number of re-integrees who have joined the program or all the administrative things that go into helping this program stay afloat. Over the next few weeks I will go into the specifics and highlight the continuing successes of this Afghan led program. I welcome your thoughts and hope I can generate a discussion about this program that I believe is helping to build a safe, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
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