UK 'hires' Taliban for £100 on no-kill mission

Taliban forces, not far from the former main Soviet air base Bagrame, 25 kms north from Kabul. (AFP Photo/ Alexander Nemenov)
Details have emerged of a NATO “reintegration program” which paid £100 a month as an incentive to dissuade Taliban fighters – including those known to have committed atrocities - from attacking ISAF forces in Afghanistan.

­Taliban members in receipt of the cash payments were also asked to participate in a survey about their reasons for joining the insurgency.

The British contingent that initiated the “walk off the battlefield” program offered an amnesty to participating militants, even if they were known to have participated in attacks on British troops in Afghanistan.

Since it started in October 2010, over 2,700 militants have taken part in the program, 90 per cent of them in Helmand province where 400 British troops have been killed and more than 5,000 injured.

The British command claims the program has led to a 30 per cent fall in insurgent attacks.

The UK’s “forgiveness program” has cost £6.5 million so far and has been compared to the strategy for integrating members of IRA back into society in order to secure the peace in Northern Ireland.

A militant who wants to break with Taliban or Al Qaeda embarks on three months of training during which they are taught the values of good citizenship. Islamic scholars are employed to explain true values of Islam, whose roots are non-violent.

Over the course of the three months, a volunteer is paid a £100 grant.

Of those who have joined the program, less than one per cent have ‘relapsed’ and returned to the insurgency.

The American command supports the initiative because, as they see it, a militant has only three ways to quit the insurgency: to be killed, captured or reintegrated. 

The psychological aspect of the deal is based on the concept of “afwra” among the Pashtun ethnic group which plays a leading role in the Taliban.

“Afwra” is about forgiveness and the bonds between those who forgive and those who are forgiven. It is about a society willing to accept back an individual who once went against its values, so once the forgiveness is given, the two sides come together in a way which makes it hard to break the new bonds.

The return of armed peasants to civilian life will be gradual and take a lot of time. There are an estimated 30,000 insurgent partisans in the Afghan mountains, and many of them have never farmed, regarding warfare as their life’s mission. 

It is believed that many insurgents have ended up with the Taliban because of the inability of the Afghan authorities to deal their problems, particularly disputes around the ownership of farmland. It is possible that as many as 25 per cent of insurgents will return home once they have guarantees that their grievances are properly addressed and their livelihoods safeguarded.