News: Former insurgents take part in reintegration ceremony
Story by Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade
LAGHMAN PROVINCE, Afghanistan – The fragrant smell of orange blossoms from a nearby orchard filled the air during a reintegration ceremony at Forward Operating Base Mahtar Lam, April 3.
Seven former insurgent fighters symbolically layed down their weapons in a reintegration ceremony with the help of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program.
Fazlollah Mojadeddi, governor of Laghman province, told the re-integrees he was very proud for what they’ve done. He reaffirmed the seven individuals they would be safe and would be given an opportunity to find jobs upon their return to their communities.
“If more fighters laid down their weapons, there would be peace, sovereignty and stability in our country,” said Mojadeddi.
The Laghman province APRP program director, Afghan National Army, 2nd Kandak, 1st Brigade, 201st Corps, and U.S. Army senior leadership also attended the ceremony.
This is the second reintegration ceremony U.S. Army Lt. Col. Monte Rone, a native of Muskegon Heights, Mich., has attended since he and Task Force Thunderhorse have been in Mahtar Lam. Rone serves as commander, 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division based out of Fort Hood, Texas.
He said information regarding the reintegration program is circulated via television, radio and flyers handed out by the Afghan Uniformed Police. The program offers insurgents the opportunity to return to their villages with dignity and honor.
Rone said the reintegration program began in 2010, since then there have been 278 former fighters lay down their weapons in Laghman province. Thousands of former fighters from throughout the country have returned to communities to start a new life working to build a better Afghanistan.
“I think that is a result of the improved cooperation between the government and security forces, and also the success of ANSF operations,” said Rone.
Before they begin the vetting process individuals must break their ties with insurgent elements and, commit to supporting the government must abide by the Afghan constitution. Once the evaluation phase ends, ANA, Afghan National Police and the Provincial Peace committee officials evaluate the candidate.
Rone said a reintegration ceremony does not happen very often. He said the ANA received a phone call from a kandak commander who said some former insurgent fighters wanted to reintegrate. Since then the ANA worked with the provincial governor and the APRP to have them begin the selection process. There were originally 15 individuals and after the screening process, seven were chosen.
During the outdoor ceremony, each of the former insurgents held a rifle with no ammunition in it. They stood side-by-side while the individual closest to the stage held a plain white flag attached to a wooden post.
The Taliban used a white flag during the Afghan Civil War which later became the country’s national flag. It represented “the purity, their faith and government.”
The former insurgents marched to the center of the yard where the Afghan officers and local officials stood, facing a formation of ANA soldiers. The individual holding the white flag ceremoniously switched it with the red, black and green flag of Afghanistan.
Mojadeddi then placed a traditional turban on the former insurgent’s head and shook his hand thanking him for taking part in the peace process. The other six followed suit, each one relinquishing their weapons, receiving a turban and other gifts as a token of appreciation. The white flag was placed on a table next to rifles once used against coalition forces. Finally the re-integrees sat down next to the stage facing the ANA soldier formation.
“You can achieve effects by non-lethal and lethal means,” said Rone. “I think today was a great non-lethal engagement where our ANSF counterparts and the provincial governor were able to achieve some effects by reintegrating some pretty bad folks, and that's always a good thing.”
Mojadeddi said the ceremony went very well and hoped other fighters would see the ceremony and would renounce violence.
“I hope others would ‘come down from the mountains,’ and be encouraged to join the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan,” said Mojadeddi.